Petroleum Geology for non-geologists

Trainer(s): Jan de Jager
Duration: 5 sessions of 3 hours per day

Business context

To provide non-geologists with a realistic understanding of petroleum geology and an appreciation of the challenges, risks and uncertainties related to exploration for and production of oil and gas. Participants will gain an improved understanding of the exploration and production workflow and the issues that need to be addressed by geoscientists.

Who should attend

This course is specifically intended for non-geoscientists (in technical or non-technical support functions) working with Exploration and/or Production geoscientists, who would like to obtain a basic understanding of petroleum geology and related topics, such as exploration, reservoir engineering and production. 

Course content

All modules are richly illustrated with examples from different petroleum basins from around the globe. Most modules will include a simple exercise as a break for the presentations, to enhance understanding and to stimulate questions and discussion.

Each day will start with a recapitulation session in which the main learnings of the previous day will be summarised, which provides an opportunity to address remaining questions and uncertainties.  A detailed description of all modules is included as an Appendix.

Learning, methods and tools

The VILT will be delivered online in5 sessions of 3 hours per day, with 2 breaks of 10 minutes per day. It is the intention to have at least 2 smaller exercises per day and a larger exercise as 'home assignment' which should be worked on after the VILT and before the start of the next VILT. Time will be reserved for recapitulation, questions and discussions. 

VILT will be conducted either via Zoom or Microsoft Teams. Presenting materials can easily be done on this platform. When participants need to ask a question, they can raise their hand, write notes or interrupt the Instructor by using their microphone. The presenter can switch to a screen where he/she can see all participants (also when each participant is sitting in another location e.g. at home). 

Each topic is introduced by a lecture, and learning is re-enforced by practical exercises and discussions. Hand-out material in paper and/or electronic format will be provided.

Day by day programme

Day 1: Setting the scene

Introduction participants and course instructor

Geology essentials:Sedimentation (lithologies and their depositional settings) and structuration (faults and folds); Plate Tectonics will be explained as the motor of all geology.

Basins:The main petroleum basin types explained in the context of plate tectonics (rift basins, foredeeps, delta settings, etc).

Data:Well data, seismic data, production data, etc; what is it, how is it acquired and how is it used.


Day 2: Essential ingredients for oil and fields

Recapitulation of Day 1

Source rocks and charge:How are hydrocarbons generated, what is needed for source rock deposition and preservation.

Reservoirs:What are the rocks from which we produce hydrocarbons, what is needed for a lithology to classify as reservoir.

Traps:What is a trap, how do we find them and what are the critical elements that control the size of a trap.

Seals:What makes a lithology a seal, preventing hydrocarbons leaking out of traps.

Pressures and overpressures:What can we learn from subsurface pressure measurements; how do overpressures in the subsurface develop, and what are the problems with them.


Day 3: Oil and Gas fields in different Basin types

Recapitulation of Day 2

Rift basins and Passive margins:SE Asian rift basins, The North Sea, West Siberia Basin, South Atlantic.

Deltas:Many large deltas are prolific petroleum basins. Why this is will be explained and illustrated with examples from NW Borneo (Baram delta), Niger Delta and the Mississippi delta in the Gulf of Mexico

Deep water settings:Deep water foldbelts examples from the Sabah Trough (Malaysia), African margins and Gulf of Mexico.

Foldbelts and foredeeps:With examples from South America.

Carbonate basins:Examples from the Arabian plate and Central Luconia (Malaysia).


Day 4: Exploration - finding new fields

Recapitulation of Day 3

The Exploration workflow:From opportunity (or idea) to discovery

Play-Based Exploration:Illustration of the PBE workflow as it is used nowadays by most companies to high-grade exploration acreage (with group exercise).

Risk & Volume assessment:How is the Probability Of Success (POS) of an exploration prospect defined, and how are the potential gas and oil volumes assessed.


Day 5: Production - producing oil and gas fields

Recapitulation of Day 4

Reserves and resources:Reserve classification - the different terms used for oil and gas volumes in the petroleum industry. What they mean and why it matters.

The Development and Production workflow:How do production geologists and Reservoir Engineers decide how to best develop oil and gas fields.

Enhanced production:In many fields at some stage production enhancing techniques are applied. The most important of these will be explained.

Exploration and Production Economics:Explanation of how the value of an undrilled prospect, or oil/gas field is assessed.