There are fascinating stories in the rocks beneath our feet. Field trips to rock outcrops are one of the most effective methods for gaining a deeper understanding of geology and can help industry professionals understand those stories. While there have been many technological advancements in the study of geology over decades, being on the ground and gaining first-hand experience is invaluable, as is the advantage of team-building opportunities out in the field. A well-conducted and planned field course can have a lasting impact on an individual or an organisation's skill sets. Let's explore this a little deeper.
Why field trips are critical to subsurface training
Field trips to outcrops are an important element of training for subsurface professionals in the energy industry. They provide unique learning opportunities for geoscientists and engineers by enhancing their understanding of geological concepts.
The limits of technology
There have been considerable advances in seismic imagery and down-hole data from boreholes. The level of detail provided today was unimaginable even a few decades ago. These advances can provide opportunities for sophisticated interpretations of the subsurface geology.
However, some limitations do still exist. For example, 3D seismic resolution is limited to tens of metres vertically and horizontally. Borehole data provides detail at the sub-metre scale but as it is in close proximity to the borehole, it essentially is one-dimensional. The limitations of seismic and borehole data become apparent when attempting to create a conceptual or numerical model of a body of rock that may be an oil or gas reservoir. The only way to conceptualise possible characteristics across volumes of rock at the appropriate scale is to use analogues from outcrops of comparable depositional or structural settings. This is where field trips are vital.
Gaining invaluable first-hand experience
Geoscientists who can observe geological features first-hand can come away with a better understanding of the processes that produced those features.
"The best geologist is the one who has seen the most rocks"
Herbert Harold Read, 1940
Direct links can be made between what can be seen on a seismic scale and the scale of an outcrop. Observing outcrops on a field course can focus on the characteristics of a particular depositional system and can provide a reality check on reservoir models. Field courses enable participants to assess marginal prospects and completion strategies, enhancing value and reducing costs in day-to-day company operations.
At RPS, we believe that training lessons learned in the field are vital and that field trips can be an advantage to both team-building and collaboration. They allow for more discussion, enhanced application of new concepts and provide a setting for diverse opinions and deliberations. We encourage participants on field trips to share their ideas and promote positive teamwork. Field trips provide opportunities for teams from different backgrounds and disciplines to work collaboratively.
Geologists, geophysicists, reservoir engineers and other specialists all get an opportunity to understand how geological concepts affect each other's work on a project. This in turn enables better communication when back in the office. For example, one of our field courses, N033, is led by a production geologist and reservoir engineer involved in deep-water reservoir development. This course specifically focuses on the interconnection between reservoir geoscience and engineering disciplines.
Addressing the knowledge gap
Training in the field can help address knowledge gaps that developed in the energy industry in the last few years due to fluctuations in oil prices, the pandemic and senior geoscientists leaving the sector. These workforce and demographic shifts have resulted in some taking on more responsibility mid-career without previously available support and internal mentorship. During field trips, participants can interact and learn critical problem-solving skills from instructors who have decades of experience.
Field trips for the energy transition
Field trips are also vital as low-carbon solutions become increasingly important to the energy sector. For example, geological sequestration is a crucial component of carbon capture and storage (CCS). Field trips highlighting fault geometry, trap effectiveness, rupture hazards and fluid pressure containment analysis will support an understanding of carbon dioxide storage.
In addition, field trips to outcrops that are analogous to reservoirs for CCS storage sites will allow participants to assess factors such as top seal integrity reservoir geometry, porosity, permeability, and geomechanical properties.