N019 Play Fairway Analysis: A Tool for Effective Exploration and Risk Quantification (Dorset, England)

Course Facts

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


The course examines and illustrates the construction and use of play fairway maps as a means of expressing exploration risk. Participants combine field observations and data from the Wessex Basin in classroom exercises to generate play fairway maps, and develop an understanding of the critical play elements for resource assessment and exploration risking.

Duration and Training Method

A four-day field course of which 50% will be fieldwork on the Dorset Coast, Southern England, and 50% will be classrom based.  The teaching method will be classroom instruction and exercises followed by field excursions. There are small team integrated exercises using a range of exploration data. Field work comprises team exercises and regular reviews to highlight the key points.

Participants will learn to:

  1. Examine a working petroleum system and categorise the key elements required for exploration success.
  2. Test methodologies and processes to express the effectiveness of these elements through the construction of play fairway maps.
  3. Employ field work specifically focussed on analysis of key petroleum system elements of the Wessex Basin.
  4. Apply field observations to the implementation of play fairway mapping exercises.
  5. Construct play fairway maps based on field observations, well data, geoseismic sections, regional isopachs and regional structure maps.
  6. Sketch play fairway maps for source presence and effectiveness, reservoir presence and effectiveness (at two reservoir levels), and trap and migration effectiveness using an understanding of trap timing relationships.
  7. Demonstrate a composite understanding of the distribution of each of the critical play elements and apply this to a prospect ranking exercise.
  8. Compare several approaches for quantifying the geological chance of success (COS) for a prospect and use the play fairway maps created during the course to assess the COS for a number of prospects within the mapped area. Through this, understand the benefits that fairway mapping provides in understanding the regional context and relative ranking of individual prospects.

Through a mixture of field and classroom based exercises, this course will lead participants through the key constituents of a working petroleum system, and will describe a methodology to express the effectiveness of these elements through the construction of play fairway maps. The participants will develop a series of such maps using field observation and subsurface data. The maps will be used as a tool to derive the geological chance of success for a number of prospects in a final prospect exercise.


  • Review elements which comprise a hydrocarbon play system.
  • Describe methods for determining and quantifying the geological chance of success.
    Generate play maps on key components of the hydrocarbon system (source, reservoir and migration) using field observations, logs and seismic data.
  • Develop understanding of distribution of critical play elements.
  • Apply understanding to resource assessment exercise.


Field excursions along an West-East transect of the Wessex Basin (Triassic to Jurassic) to integrate outcrop observations into the play fairway mapping exercises.

Note: This course does not prescribe a single (proprietary) method for determining the geological chance of success for a prospect. It compares various approaches and demonstrates the benefits of play fairway mapping techniques.


Day 0:

  • Participants fly into London Heathrow, Travel from Heathrow to Hotel, Weymouth.
  • Course Introduction followed by Group Dinner.

Day 1:

Field Excursion: to examine Triassic reservoirs facies at Budleigh Salterton and Sidmouth and Early Jurassic source rocks and reservoir facies at Lyme Regis and West Bay respectively.

Day 2:

Classroom: constriction of gross depositional environment and maximum depth of burial maps for the Triassic and Early Jurassic reservoirs. Map out the potential distribution of source rocks and identify the mature source kitchen. Understand the migration pathway connecting the mature source kitchen with the reservoir fairways.  

Day 3:

  • Morning Field Excursion: Lulworth Cove, Stair Hole and Kimmeridge Bay.
  • Afternoon Classroom: Mapping potential migration routes within the reservoir fairways and examining prospect specific chance of success factors.

Day 4:

  • Morning Final Exercise: Assessing the geological chance of success for a number of prospects within the mapping area, detailed review and discussions of the exercise.
  • Afternoon: Travel to London Heathrow Airport.

Who should attend

Recruit geologists and geophysicists; experienced geologists and geophysicists seeking training in play fairway mapping and analysis; exploration team leaders & managers who are responsible for co-ordination of an exploration team; prospect economic specialists seeking an overview of the geological/geophysical variables and risk and uncertainties that are used in economic evaluations; technical support staff developing into the G&G discipline.

Prerequisites and linking courses

Prerequisites - it is assumed that participants have a basic knowledge of petroleum geology, seismic, well logs and petroleum exploration data prior to attending this course.

Linking Courses - other courses in the Nautilus Training Alliance Prospect Evaluation Module include:

  • N006 Introduction to Reservoir Engineering (USA)
  • N014 Petroleum Economics and Risk Analysis
  • N031 Prospect Evaluation and Volumetric Methods
  • N089 Exploration Project Evaluation & Prospect Description (USA)

The physical demands for this class are LOW according to the Nautilus Training Alliance field course grading system. This class requires a basic level of fitness. Field locations are all easily accessible requiring only a short walk from the coach. The longest walk is approximately 1.5 km along a pebbly beach.

Learn how RPS manages safety

Click on a name to learn more about the instructor

Martin Stephenson

I have gained a firm understanding of play analysis and course delivery was excellent