D425 Play Analysis for Targeted Prospect Identification

Course Facts

Course Code:
4 days
Virtual Classroom
3.2 Continuing Education Units
32 Professional Development Hours
Certificate Issued Upon Completion


Business Impact: Play fairway analysis and common risking segment (CRS) mapping are commonly used in the evaluation of frontier basins. However, they can also be successfully applied to more mature basins where moderate-sized accumulations, perhaps in subtle trap configurations, await the attention of the creative explorer. This course will emphasise how understanding the geology can lead to the identification of both high- and low-risk areas and ultimately lead to the discovery of untapped resources.

Topics include play definition; construction of gross depositional environment (GDE) maps; play fairway analysis of reservoir, seal, source and charge; risk and uncertainty; risking using CRS; resource estimates; trap domains.

Duration and Training Method

A virtual classroom course divided into 8 three-hour webinar sessions, comprising a number of informative exercises designed to get across the principles, punctuated by a series of short talks. 

The course will have a workshop format with the majority of time spent using and interpreting the data under the guidance of an industry expert. Case histories are taken from the UK, Norway, USA, Canada, Indonesia, Brazil, and Vietnam, among others.

 Participants will learn to:

  1. Evaluate ‘hero’ lines and define the key plays in a basin.
  2. Map the understanding of the play elements (presence and effectiveness of reservoir, source and seal) and consider interpretation confidence and alternative models.
  3. Integrate risks on all play elements to compile common risk segment maps and calibrate with drilling statistics and well failure/success analyses.
  4. Determine play resource and yet to find estimates using various techniques, including creaming curves and field size gap analysis, geochemical volumetrics, and prospect density.
  5. Consider the importance of stratigraphic and subtle traps in the exploration of mature basins.
Definitions and overview of the work flow

Play definition: play fairway, and petroleum system. Play fairway map, events chart and play cartoon. Importance of the regional foundation (structure, stratigraphic and petroleum systems).

Work flow overview (play definition, play elements and interpretation confidence map, common risk segment mapping, resource estimates at play level).

Play elements: presence

Play elements: construction of Gross Deposition Environment (GDE) maps from seismic, seismic attributes, isochores and key wells (reservoir, top seal and source presence).

Play elements: effectiveness and trap domain maps

Reservoir deliverability, seal capacity and charge access. Importance of first carrier, lateral versus vertical drained systems, maturity versus organo-facies, effects of early oil and pore pressure on porosity, and charge focus.

Event charts and trap domain maps.

Risking, resource estimates (yet to find), well failure analyses

Risking plays using Common Risk Segment mapping - calibration using fields and well failures. Risk versus uncertainty, phase risk and composition.

Play resource (yet to find) estimates - creaming curves, field size distributions, areal yield, prospect density, leads and prospect inventories).

A brief overview of the importance of stratigraphic and subtle traps in the exploration of mature basins.

North Slope Alaska Exercise

Applying what we have learned on the course so far to this final exercise. There have been a number of world class discoveries announced in Alaska over the last few years. Subtle trapping controls the majority of the discoveries in the basin and stratigraphic trapping may provide substantial undiscovered volumes.

The database is a good quality regional 2D seismic grid over the NPRA, supplemented with information from outcrop, well data, and fields from the prolific area over the Barrow Arch to the east. Participants will:

  • Evaluate a regional line and construct a play fairway cartoon.
  • Agree which are the key horizons to map for a regional evaluation and map these around on the available regional grid.
  • Construct GDEs for reservoir and source presence.
  • Tackle the 3 effectiveness play elements (seal capacity, reservoir quality and charge access).
  • Construct CRS (risk) maps and consider resource estimates.
  • Participate in a discussion of where the future potential lies, considering key failures and successes in the basin and their implications for future potential.

Who should attend

The course is aimed at exploration geoscientists with experience of seismic interpretation, having a sound understanding of other geoscience disciplines and how they impact petroleum systems and plays. The course will most benefit geoscientists with 1-5 years of experience, or those with little practical knowledge of play fairway analysis. It will also serve as an excellent refresher for more experienced geoscientists.


Prerequisites and linking courses

Basic understanding of the application of petroleum systems analysis, as acquired via N010 (Geochemistry and Petroleum System Modelling), is assumed. In addition, a working knowledge of structural geology, offered in N016 (Structural Geology for Petroleum Exploration, Nevada, USA) and N116 (Structural Geology for Petroleum Exploration, SW England); and seismic interpretation, offered in N085 (Introduction to Seismic Interpretation) or N040 (Interpretation of 3D Seismic Data) is required.  An understanding and application of sequence stratigraphy, such as that acquired via N007 (Seismic and Sequence Stratigraphy for Play Prediction and Basin Analysis), is also expected.

Participants wishing for more comprehensive coverage of subtle and stratigraphic traps are directed to N477 (A Systematic Approach to Defining and Evaluating Stratigraphic and Subtle Combination Traps).

Click on a name to learn more about the instructor

Mark Thompson

Related Subjects

"Good real data examples, excellent mix of lecturing and exercises"