N298 Reservoir Analogues for the Southwestern Barents Sea: Outcrop Examples from Svalbard (Norway)

Course Facts

Course Code:
6 days
Physical Demand:
4.8 Continuing Education Units
48 Professional Development Hours
Certificate Issued Upon Completion


The focus of this course is an outcrop examination of a variety of depositional systems including the Carboniferous/Permian marine-carbonate succession and Mesozoic shallow-marine, deltaic and continental successions. Focus will be placed on the facies architecture and stratigraphy with application to coeval reservoir rocks and petroleum systems of the southwestern Barents Sea. Observations and analyses will be placed in a context of subsurface data from core, wireline logs and seismic profiles.

Duration and Training Method

A six-day field course course including introductory and summary classroom sessions. The group will spend most of the day ashore with evening lectures and discussion sessions onboard the ship.

Participants will learn to:

  1. Illustrate the broad tectonic setting and evolution of the SW Barents Sea region.
  2. Characterise a wide range of carbonate and clastic depositional processes and products and their recognition in the subsurface.
  3. Validate facies distributions with respect to regional correlations.
  4. Assess the large-scale controls with particular emphasis on high-resolution sequence stratigraphy on basin floor, slope and associated deltaic systems.
  5. Characterise regional petroleum systems in terms of spatial distribution of reservoir development, the nature of permeability baffles and barriers, seal, trap and source rock distribution.
  6. Evaluate regional scale links and make well constrained predictions of reservoir presence and potential quality.
  7. Predict regional basin infill depositional elements and the implications for reservoir modelling, as well as exploration and development risks.

The southwestern Barents Sea remains a frontier area for the petroleum industry, particularly as a result of recent success in the area (e.g. Johan Castberg, Gohta and Alta discoveries). The geology of Svalbard is especially suitable as a reference for the geology of the Norwegian Barents Sea and also serves as an analogue for sequence stratigraphic concepts applicable to the Norwegian Continental Shelf. Svalbard offers world-class outcrops, enabling reservoir study from pore- to seismic-scale, as well as the examination of play concepts and the integral role of sequence stratigraphic relationships.

The field-based component will investigate a variety of carbonate and clastic depositional systems ranging in age from Carboniferous-Tertiary. Attendees will examine superbly-exposed often seismic-scale sequences from a variety of basins and explore the contrasting reservoir components that are developed within different tectonic and climatic regimes. Comparison with subsurface examples from the North Sea, Barents Sea and other Arctic Basins will be made throughout the course. Stratal relationships will be analysed in the field at vertical scales of tens of metres and horizontal scales of kilometres. All observations and analyses will be placed in a context of subsurface data from core, wireline log and seismic profiles. Participants will be able carry out field analysis of a wide variety of carbonate and clastic systems and use data to determine patterns of relative sea level change and correlate between successions.

Course themes:

1. Middle Carboniferous continental and shallow marine successions denote the onset of major rifting forming north-south orientated rift-basins across Central Svalbard. The post-rift transition into the Permian is characterised by a variety of shallow marine carbonates. Such carbonates may have reservoir potential.

2. Triassic sequences are dominantly of shallow marine and shelfal origin and notably preserve shales with high organic content (Botnheia Formation) that may prove to be a prolific source rock in the Barents Sea. Major uplift in the Late Triassic led to incision and continental-shallow marine deposition extending into the Early Jurassic. Reservoir units in the Tromsø and Hammerfest Basins of the SW Barents region are are of similar paralic to shallow marine origin (Havert, Klappmyss, Kobbe, Snadd, Fruholmen, Tubåen, Nordmela and Stø Formations).

3. Middle-Jurassic to Early Cretaceous deposits were formed in response to marine transgression across Svalbard with further deposition of high TOC shales as well as a variety of shallow marine and deltaic units. Petroleum systems related to the Late Jurassic (Hekkingen) source rock are considered dominant in the SW Barents Sea. Uplift in the Early Cretaceous is marked by a regional unconformity with fluvial deposits overlying shelfal mudstones. Adventdalen Group successions are considered analogous to Brent Group units in the North Sea.

Approximate Itinerary (dependent on weather, sea conditions and polar bear):

Arrival into Longyearbyen based on flight availability.

Day 1:

  • PM: Transfer to M/S Origo for afternoon departure.

Days 2-6:

  • Localities in Van Keulenfjorden, Van Mijenfjorden and the inner Isfjorden area.
  • Return to Longyearbyen harbour on the evening of day 6.
  • Overnight onboard.

Day 7:

  • Leave the ship early morning for flights home.

Who should attend

The course is designed not only for exploration and development geologists working the Barents Sea and Arctic regions but is also relevant to all subsurface geoscientists who wish to broaden and deepen their knowledge of carbonate and clastic plays. Tuition will provide a broad working knowledge of these systems for graduate and inexperienced staff, while providing further insights to experienced workers.

Prerequisites and linking courses

It is assumed that participants will have a knowledge of the fundamental process and terminology of sedimentology and sequence stratigraphy before attending this class. This can be gained on Basic Application Competence Level courses N155 (Introduction to Clastic Depositional Systems: a Petroleum Perspective) and N156 (Clastic Depositional Systems in a Basinal Framework: Exploration and Reservoir Inplications, Pyrenees, Spain). Geoscientists can expand on the lessons learnt on other GTA field and classroom carbonate and clastic courses.

The physical demands for this class are HIGH according to the Nautilus field course grading system. The field trip will take place onboard M/S Origo and will be supported by its crew. The ship will provide transport to the field areas as well as accommodation and lecture facilities. Accommodation will be shared and in a relatively confined space. Transfer ashore will be via Zodiac inflatable boats.  Hiking in this field environment requires a good level of fitness and there may be walks of at least 5 km plus, most days. The terrain may cover steep and rough (hard) slopes and participants should have experience of walking in mountainous areas. Well fitting and supportive mountain boots will be a compulsory requirement, along with an appropriate layered clothing system for the environment. Elevation gain during the hikes can be up to 500m from sea level.

Svalbard lies in the remote high Arctic and is subject to sudden and extreme changes in weather conditions, from sunshine to wet weather including snow, even during summer (the average temperature is about 5 ºC). Motion sickness can be experienced onboard the ship, depending on weather and the resulting sea state. Participants should be aware of this and bring appropriate medication or aids. Trained and experienced personnel will be equipped with firearms for polar bear protection.

Learn how RPS manages safety

Click on a name to learn more about the instructor

Andy Thurlow

The one thing I wanted out of this course is how Svalbard outcrops and stratigraphy related to other parts of the Barents Sea, to get a regional picture. This was done very well and clearly. Greatly enhanced my knowledge of the regional geology of the area.