N142 Structure and Fault Systems in Hydrocarbon Exploration and Production (Southern Pyrenees, Spain)

Course Facts

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


This field and classroom course examines the structural interpretation of fault systems in contractional and extensional tectonic regimes from outcrop to regional scale. The Spanish Pyrenees are a magnificent natural laboratory in which to study thrust structures, as well as inverted extensional basins. These basins exhibit facies and geometries of syn-rift sediments, enabling analysis of extensional fault geometries and subsequent inversion.

Duration and Training Method

A six-day field course with field observations and exercises supported by classroom lectures. The proportion of field time to classroom time is approximately 80:20. This course will also make use of Digital Outcrop Imagery (DOI).

Participants will learn to:

  1. Characterise thrusts and related structural styles in the field including different fault-related folds and thrust sequences.
  2. Evaluate extensional fault systems at crustal and outcrop scales and analyse extensional fault geometries and related structures in 2D and 3D.
  3. Determine the structural features typical of regions where multiple deformation events have occurred – in particular the reactivation of faults and structural inversion.
  4. Interpret growth strata and decipher the kinematics of structures from their analysis.
  5. Analyse the influence of salt on extensional and contractional structural styles.
  6. Integrate surface data with subsurface data (seismic and well data), apply this knowledge in the construction of cross sections and 3D structural models.
  7. Apply the knowledge gained to improve structural interpretations or to validate interpretations. 
  8. Analyse the influence of fracture systems and fault sealing on reservoir production/performance.

This is a six-day combined field and classroom course which aims to review the fundamentals of structural interpretation of fault systems and related structures. The course will cover contractional and extensional structural regimes from outcrop to regional scale. It will be held in the southern Pyrenees of Spain to take advantage of the excellent exposures of this magnificent natural laboratory. Field case studies will be combined with seismic examples, numerical models and exploration case studies.

The course will be based in the Can Boix resort (www.canboix.com). This hotel is located at the South-Pyrenean thrust front and is a superb locality for thrust tectonics related topics. It is also close to an inverted extensional basin which beautifully demonstrates tectonic inversion geometries. Well-preserved facies and geometries of the syn-rift sediments will enable discussion of the extensional fault geometries of this inverted basin.

Structural models

  • Construction of cross-sections and 3D structural models from surface and subsurface data. Restoration and forward modelling
  • Fault systems
    Geometry and definition of the main geometrical features. Types of faults and fault classification. Fault-related rocks
  • Thrust systems
    Introduction to orogenic systems and thrust and fold belts: mechanics and evolution
    Geometry of thrust systems: a single surface. Thrust systems. Thrust sequences
    Fault-related folds: fault-bend folds, fault-propagation folds and detachment folds
    Other kinds of thrust-related folds. Growth geometries of syn-orogenic sediments
    Tectonic styles of thrust systems: emergent thrust systems, deepwater thrust and fold belts and thrust fronts
  • Extensional fault systems
    Introduction to the geometry of extensional systems at crustal scale
    Geometry of extensional fault systems and related structures: from a single fault at 2D to complex geometries at 3D. Fault-related folds in extensional regimes
  • Inversion tectonics
    Introduction: mechanics of fault reactivation. Kind of inversion tectonics
    Inversion tectonic geometries and related structures
  • Salt tectonics
    Structural styles associated with salt tectonics


Day 0

  • Group assembles in Barcelona.

Day 1

  • Classroom sessions: Introductions. Introduction to the geology of the southern Pyrenees. Introduction to fault systems.
  • Field excursion – depart Barcelona, examination of extensional fault systems en route to Can Boix.

Day 2

  • Classroom sessions: Seismic exercises of Western Mediterranean and Atlantic extensional fault systems. Discussion of the Catalan Coastal Ranges extensional fault system basen on field and seismic data.
  • Field trip to the frontal thrust system of the south-central Pyrenees. The topic of the trip will focus on the thrust geometry of an emergent thrust front and a thrust imbricate stack. Thrust sequences will be discussed on the basis of the geometrical and age relationships between synorogenic sediments and thrust structures.

Day 3

  • Classroom sessions: Thrust-related folds. Tectonic styles of thrust systems. Mapping and seismic exercises will complement field observations.
  • Field excursion to the Sant Corneli-Bóixols fault-propagation anticline. Geometry from field, seismic and well data. 3D geometry, kinematics and fracture distribution.

Day 4

  • Classroom sessions: Inversion tectonics.
  • Field trip to the Organyà Early Cretaceous inverted basin. Inversion tectonic geometries. Discussion on different inversion events: inversion in a strike-slip regime and inversion during the Pyrenean compressive event. Geometry of the extensional structures and their relationships with the facies and geometries of the syn-rift sediments. 

Day 5

  • Classroom sessions: Review of structural styles studied and case studies discussed, related to the different tectonic regimes.
  • Field excursion to Boixols anticline to examine carbonate fracture systems and fault sealing capacity.

Day 6

  • Classroom sessions: Growth strata.
  • Examination of growth strata in the field.
  • Return to Barcelona late afternoon/early evening.

Who should attend

The course is aimed at non-specialist explorationists, geologists and geophysicists wishing to improve their understanding of structural geology, particularly in regions of multiple deformation. The course is suitable for early to mid-career geoscientists or new hires with some background in structural seismic interpretation. Experienced workers may also benefit from the course as an update and refresher to modern structural geological thinking.  

Prerequisites and linking courses

There are no prerequistes for this class, however an understanding of the principles of structural and sedimentary geology is assumed as well as some experience of seismic interpretation. Structural geology classroom courses are also available from Nautilus such as: N090 (Seismic Structural Styles Workshop) and related field courses include N016 (Structural Geology for Petroleum Exploration, Nevada, USA). The Nautilus Training Alliance offers an extensive portfolio of structural geology-focussed classes that deal with fracturing, extensional systems, contractional systems and salt tectonics. Please see the website for details.

The physical demands of this class are graded MODERATE according to the Nautilus Training Alliance field grading system. The field area is at a moderate altitude in the Pyrenees, with a high point of approximately 1500 m and some participants may experience unexpected fatigue or shortness of breath.

The longest walk is approximately 3 km (1.8 miles) on trails that are occasionally steep and uneven underfoot. There are walks of up to 2 km (1.2 miles) most days and participants can expect both hot and cold conditions and should be prepared for wet weather. Please note that days are typically long and the class may not finish until 7 or 8 pm, with the evening meal as late as 9 pm.

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Josep Anton Munoz

Eduard Roca

Very good course. Information gained in this class will have direct effect on my interpretations and evaluations of structural plays/prospects currently and in the future.