Applied Structural Geology and in Hydrocarbon Systems Analysis

Trainer(s): Tim Needham
Duration: 5 days

Business context

Structural analysis is a key part of risk assessment in subsurface evaluations. This course is intended to provide participants with the skills to optimize both exploration lead evaluation and reservoir development with respect to structural complexities in hydrocarbon reservoirs such as structural geometries, conduits and seals.

The participants will be introduced to the main elements of geo-mechanics, which then serve as a basis to understand structural geometries and kinematics.  Case histories still provide good illustration materials as it helps understanding mechanics and tectonics.

Participants are encouraged to bring actual cases of their current work to the workshop for general discussion and integrated 'hands-on' problem solving during the workshop. Basic interpretation elements will be discussed  for each tectonic regime.

Who should attend

Exploration and Development Geologists, Geophysicists and Petroleum Engineers  working on the development of hydrocarbons in areas with (complex) tectonic regimes.

Course content


  • Seismic, field and analogue model experiments will be used to demonstrate structural geometries associated with the three main tectonic regimes. Geomechanical properties of faults and host rocks will be assessed.
  • Real case data will be used in an exercise to construct a Mohr diagram from which rock mechanical properties will be deduced.
  • Fault sealing will be treated in the context of local geology, regional tectonics and local geological history. Case history examples will be used to illustrate the theoretical aspects with real case results.
  • Fault sealing by clay smear will be explained and illustrated with a case history.
  • Inversion tectonics is described frequently. In this course a quantitative geomechanical analysis of preferential inversion will be presented and discussed.
  • Fault sealing on the basis of cataclasis will be presented as a quantitative geomechanical method. Calibration of fault seal predictions will be discussed.
  • Exercises will be based on real cases. 

Learning, methods and tools

Exercises and case histories presented throughout the week  provide a strong link between theory and application.

Relevant examples presented by participants can be treated as part of the course if presented in advance, including some example material.

Day by day programme

Day 1

  • Introduction: to petroleum systems
  • The role of structures in petroleum systems
  • To create a 'common ground' in the group, the first day will contain fundamental aspects of structural geology and geo-mechanics and the application of this subject to general geological phenomena as encountered in the oil and gas business.

Day 2

  • Extensional tectonics: rifts, delta's, domes and associated sedimentation patterns.
  • Theory, examples, analogue models, structural geometries and fault properties that are characteristic for extensional tectonic regimes will be covered during Day-2. Structural reservoir types and fault sealing mechanisms will be part of the material.
  • Strike-slip tectonics. Theory, case history, analogue models, seismic interpretation. Structural geometries and faults characteristic of strike-slip tectonic regimes will be covered. The 3D nature of this tectonic setting including pitfalls and traps in structural interpretation will receive special attention

Day 3

  • Compressional tectonics: fold-and-thrust belts
  • Compressional tectonics: fault reactivation - multi-phase tectonics
  • Theory, case histories, analogue models, seismic interpretation exercise.
  • Pore pressure prediction and overpressure generation mechanisms
  • Structural geometries and fault properties that are characteristic for compressional tectonic regimes will be treated during Day 3.
  • The mechanics of fault reactivation (inversion tectonics) will be discussed.

Day 4

  • Diapirs and associated structures
  • Fault sealing and top seal integrity. Structural reservoir types and fault sealing mechanisms for all tectonic regimes will be part of the material.
  • Aspects of salt-tectonics will be discussed during the morning of day-4. Examples from the North Sea and the Gulf of Mexico, interpretation exercise. This session will be used to discuss fault sealing mechanisms and approaches to evaluate top seal integrity in exploration and in production scenarios.

Day 5

  • Fracture systems: fracture mechanics, reservoir examples and outcrop examples
  • Analysis of fault and fracture systems, including fractal properties of fault and fractures and prediction of sub-seismic faults.
  • Theory, case histories, analogue models. Fracture mechanics, fracture types, natural fracture systems and their influence on reservoir characteristics and production strategies will be discussed.
  • Course summary.