N220 Structural Geology and Seismic Interpretation for Petroleum Exploration and Production

Course Facts

Course Code:
5 days
4.0 Continuing Education Units
40 Professional Development Hours
Certificate Issued Upon Completion


This course examines aspects of structural interpretation in different tectonic regimes, from outcrop to regional scale, using field examples, seismic examples, petroleum industry case studies, seismic exercises and scaled analogue modelling examples. All key aspects of extensional tectonics, inversion tectonics, strike-slip tectonics and thrust tectonics regimes are described, analysed and reviewed. 

Duration and Training Method

A five-day classroom course comprising of lectures and practical exercises with numerous seismic examples shown.

Participants will learn to:

  1. Appraise different tectonic regimes, to classify fault systems and to understand and evaluate the 4D geometries and evolution of fault systems in different tectonic regimes.
  2. Recognize and interpret characteristic seismic expressions of different tectonic regimes as well as evaluate the tectono-stratigraphic sequences associated with different tectonic events.
  3. Assess the fundamental geometries of extensional fault systems - planar and listric - in both 2D and in 3D, using analogues and field examples. Characterise fault geometries and fault sequences and their seismic expressions in different extensional environments from rift systems and passive margins to delta systems.
  4. Evaluate and identify the distinguishing characteristics of inverted rift basins and the 4D geometric and kinematic evolution of inverted fault systems. Characterise structural styles of inversion and seismic expressions and assess hydrocarbon trap styles in inverted terranes.
  5. Evaluate the fundamental dynamics and characteristic structural styles of strike-slip terranes and their 4D evolution. Assess models of 4D evolution of strike-slip fault systems and to recognize the seismic expressions of strike-slip fault systems.
  6. Assess the 4D evolution of thrust systems, thrust wedge dynamics and thrust fault-related folds. Characterise structural styles of thrust and fold belts and the characteristic hydrocarbon traps in these terranes. To understand the dynamic evolution of thrust systems using scaled physical models. Interpret seismic sections in thrust and fold belts and to evaluate the 4D evolution of thrust fold systems using the analysis of syn-kinematic growth strata.
  7. Critically assess and interpret field outcrops, seismic sections at the prospect and field scale by applying the concepts of geometries, kinematics and 4D evolution as given in this course. Evaluate seismic interpretations and map interpretations of different tectonic regimes.
  8. Judge the effects of structural development on hydrocarbon reservoirs – reservoir compartmentalization, sub-seismic scale fault systems, fault and fracture networks, fault sealing concepts and the development of fractured reservoirs.

This course aims to familiarise participants with structural geological principles applied to extensional, compressional and strike-slip regimes.

The class will cover the following topics: 

  1. Tectonic regimes; fault systems and fault classifications; fault mechanics, fault rocks and fluid flow.
  2. Geometries of extensional faults – planar and listric faults; analogue models of extensional fault systems; rift tectonics and sedimentation; - extensional case histories – Basin and Range SW USA, Gulf of Suez.
  3. Inversion tectonics; settings for inversion; geometries of inverted fault systems; 2D and 3D models of inversion structures; case histories of inverted basins.
  4. Strike-slip systems; fundamental tectonic settings; 3D kinematic evolution of strike-slip fault systems; analogue modeling of strike-slip structures; natural examples of strike-slip fault systems.
  5. Thrust systems; fundamental geometries of thin-skinned fold and thrust belts; kinematics of thrust systems; fault-related folding; growth strata in fold and thrust belts; hydrocarbon traps in fold and thrust belts.
  6. Prospect and field-scale structural geology; fault sealing charcteristics; sub-seismic scale faulting and fracturing; structural compartmentalisation of reservoirs; fractured reservoirs.

The classroom lectures and presentations will show field, remote sensing and seismic examples of the key tectonic styles and fault systems. In particular they will be complemented by scaled analogue models that demonstrate how these fault systems evolve through time.

Course Programme

Day 1: Extensional Tectonics and Extensional Fault Systems I
Classroom lectures and exercises.
Introduction to fundamental tectonic regimes; fault geometries and mechanics; extensional fault systems – planar and listric fault systems. Seismic interpretation exercises.

Day 2: Extensional Tectonics and Extensional Fault Systems II
Classroom lectures and exercises and field excursion.
3D extensional fault systems, rift systems, case-histories. Seismic interpretation exercises.

Day 3: Inversion Tectonics
Classroom lectures and exercises.
Inversion tectonics and inverted extensional fault systems; inversion case histories, analogue models and structural styles.
Seismic interpretation exercises.

Day 4: Strike-Slip Tectonics and Thrust Tectonics
Classroom lectures.
Strike-slip tectonics, strike-slip fault systems, analogue models and structural styles.
Introduction to thrust tectonics. Seismic interpretation exercises.

Day 5: Thrust Tectonics and Thrust Fault-Related Folding
Classroom lectures and exercises.
Thrust tectonics; thin-skinned thrust systems; thrust fault-related folding; growth strata; analogue models of thrust systems; hydrocarbons and fold and thrust belts.

Who should attend

Geophysicists, geologists and engineers with an interest in the controls on structure and deformation from a reservoir to an exploration scale.

Prerequisites and linking courses

There are no prerequisites for this class, although familiarity with the basics of seismic interpretation, N005 (Tectonic Controls on Basin Development and Petroleum Systems); N085 (Introduction to Seismic Interpretation); and N090 (Seismic Structural Styles Workshop), and the principles of petroleum geology are an advantage.

This class is an alternative to N016/N116 (Structural Geology for Petroleum Exploration), in Nevada/Somerset, UK respectively, and the classroom content is essentially the same. The Nautilus Training Alliance offers a number of courses that examine different stress regimes such as extension and rifts, N041 (Utah, USA); N295 (Western Alps, France); N144 (Gulf of Corinth, Greece), fold and thrust belts, N053 (Alberta, Canada); N074 (Montana, USA); N235 (Pyrenes, Spain) as well as topics such as salt tectonics, N023 (Nova Scotia, Canada). For a more basic understanding, N319 would be most applicable. A Subject Matter Map illustrating all our structural geology classes can be found on the website.

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Ken McClay

Very good course giving excellent overview of all structural styles. Great use of practical examples.