N138 Structural Interpretation in Petroleum Exploration and Development

Course Facts

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


This course describes the large scale tectonic setting of the major structural styles and the distinctive trap-forming structures that characterize each style. It presents the principal tools and techniques that are used, together with an understanding of the basic mechanical properties of rocks, to more accurately predict and interpret the shape of these trap-forming structures.

This course will improve the ability of participants to construct more accurate interpretations of structural traps from fragmentary data sets, thereby clarifying predrill risk and improving the full-cycle economics of structural plays. 

Duration and Training Method

A five-day classroom course consisting of a mixture of lectures, short exercises, and class discussion. Extensive use will be made of outcrop and satellite imagery with supporting seismic data.

Participants will learn to:

  1. Use diverse data types, including outcrop, seismic and satellite images, to categorize the regional tectonic features of the major structural styles: fold and thrust belts, rifts, inversion, strike-slip zones, and salt- and shale-dominated structures along passive margins. 
  2. Examine the shape and orientation of structural traps in each structural style.
  3. Demonstrate the influence of the mechanical properties of rocks on the development and shape of structures.
  4. Demonstrate the principal tools and techniques available for structural analysis.
  5. Demonstrate how to gather, organize, and interpret various data types to effectively predict the shape of structural traps.
  6. Illustrate pitfalls in structural interpretations.

Using outcrop data, seismic, satellite imagery, and models, this course describes the variety of structural traps that occur in compressional, extensional, strike-slip, and passive margin settings. Several short exercises throughout the course illustrate interpretation techniques and pitfalls.

The course covers the following topics and emphasises a pragmatic approach to the analysis of structural problems.

  • Introduction and course overview
    • Approach to structural interpretation
    • Influence of the mechanical properties of rocks on the development and shape of structures
  • Structures in compressional terranes
    • Tectonic framework of fold and thrust belts
    • Influence of mechanical stratigraphy
    • Fold shapes and trap styles
  • Structures in extensional terranes
    • Tectonic framework of rift basins
    • Influence of mechanical stratigraphy
    • Normal fault patterns and trap styles
  • Inversion structures
    • Reactivation of normal faults
  • Salt tectonics in passive margin settings
    • Diapir styles and growth sequence
    • Allocthonous salt and salt canopies
    • Raft blocks and “turtle” structures
    • Deep-water salt-floored fold belts
  • Structures in strike-slip terranes
    • Tectonic framework of strike-slip basins
    • Structures in strike-slip settings
  • Tools for structural analysis
    • Restoration and balancing
    • Solid modeling
    • Dipmeter analysis
    • Fault seal analysis/fault plane mapping
    • Physical modeling 
    • Finite element modeling
    • Fracture analysis
    • Remote sensing
    • Field/outcrop mapping

Who should attend

This is an entry level course for geoscientists who need an overview of the structural trap styles encountered in hydrocarbon exploration and development.

Prerequisites and linking courses

There are no prerequisites for this class but an understanding of geology and the petroleum industry is an advantage.

Related Basic Application level structural geology classes include: N016  (Structural Geology for Petroleum Exploration (Nevada,USA)), N116 (Structural Geology for Petroleum Exploration (SW England, UK)), and N090 (Seismic Structural Styles Workshop).

Skilled Application level structural geology classes cover a number of subject areas and include:
Extensional tectonics and rifts: N114 (Extensional Tectonics and Normal Faulting (Nevada and California, USA)), N407 (Predicting Reservoir and Petroleum Systems in Rifts and Extentional Basins (New Mexico & Colorado, USA), and N144 (Rift Systems, Faulting and Fault-Controlled Sedimentary Architecture: Gulf of Corinth (Greece)).

Fold and thrust belts: N053 (Compressional Structural Styles: Models for Exploration and Production (Alberta, Canada)).

Salt Tectonics: N071 (Workshop in Geological Seismic Interpretation: Salt Tectonics) and N232 (Salt Tectonics: Global Styles, Spanish Outcrops (Basque-Cantabrian Pyrenees, North Spain)).

Please visit our website for a full listing of Nautilus Training Alliance structure and tectonics courses.

Click on a name to learn more about the instructor

Sandro Serra

Related Subjects

It's a great review course and the manual includes/follows all the class presentation in sequence. Really helpful. Organized and comprehensive.