World-class training for the modern energy industry

Applied Structural Geology for E&P (G009)

  • TypeType: Classroom, Virtual
  • TypeDiscipline: Structural Geology
  • TypeDuration: 5 Days


W. Lansing Taylor: Independent Consultant


Structural geology is a fundamental discipline of the earth sciences with direct application for geoscientists and reservoir engineers involved in conventional and unconventional oil and gas exploration and development. This course provides knowledge and workflows for two common processes:

  1. The interpretation of structural features from seismic images to identify traps in hydrocarbon-bearing basins.
  2. The geomechanical characterization of unconventional reservoirs to optimize hydraulic fracture operations.

Structural geology is about the physical processes that deform rocks producing faults, fractures, folds, unconformities, growth strata and local diagenetic phenomena. At the seismic scale, the geometric arrangement of these structural features produces the characteristic forms of hydrocarbon traps. At the reservoir scale, the presence of structural features strongly impacts reservoir quality and connectivity.

Duration and Logistics

Classroom version: A 5-day classroom course comprising a mix of lectures (70%) and exercises (30%). The manual will be provided in digital format and participants will be required to bring a laptop or tablet computer to follow the lectures and exercises. Multiple choice quizzes will be utilized to reinforce learnings.

Virtual version: Five 4-hour interactive online sessions presented over 5 days (mornings in North America and afternoons in Europe). A digital manual and exercise materials will be distributed to participants before the course. Some reading and several exercises are to be completed by participants off-line. Multiple choice quizzes will be utilized to reinforce learnings.


Level and Audience

Fundamental. This course is intended for geologists and geophysicists engaged in the interpretation of faults, folds, natural fractures, unconformities and tectono-stratigraphic packages from seismic. Engineers and managers will benefit from an awareness of the topics discussed. Participants are expected to have a basic understanding of geologic process and materials but do not require any specific background in structural geology.


You will learn to:

  1. Interpret the geometry of faults, folds and unconformities from 2-D and 3-D seismic images in a geometrically defensible manner consistent with the tectonic setting.
  2. Identify stratigraphic packages that pre-date, are synchronous with, or post-date a given deformation event and use that knowledge to make more robust stratigraphic correlations and better predict the spatial distribution of facies.
  3. Understand the interplay of lithology, geomechanics and natural discontinuities in determining the quality of an unconventional resource.
  4. Identify when and how to apply built-in curvature, dislocation analysis and discrete fracture network model now available in most seismic interpretation software.

Course Content

The subject of structural geology can be subdivided into two broad categories: structural styles and structural methods.

Structural styles – the characteristic geometry of hydrocarbon traps formed in different tectonic environments. This course utilizes seismic images, outcrop examples and numerical and analog models to illustrate characteristic trap geometries formed during extension, gravity collapse, thin-skin and thick-skin contraction, inversion, strike-slip and in salt-involved systems.

Structural methods – the current toolbox available for enhancing interpretation and for predicting features that are sub-seismic in scale. This portion of the course includes discussion of geomechanics, natural fractures, the use of discrete fracture network (DFN) models, curvature analysis and the evolving field of dislocation analysis. These tools are most frequently applied as elements of reservoir characterization in unconventional systems.

Tectonics and petroleum systems

  • Structural styles and methods as applied to petroleum geology
  • The Wilson Cycle and the formation of sedimentary basins
  • Tectonic setting of hydrocarbons in the US

Structural interpretation of seismic images

  • Key concept: tectonic stratigraphy
  • Understanding progressive unconformities
  • Fault plane reflectors, auto-picking and ant tracking
  • Common seismic artifacts: velocity issues and prismatic reflectors

Exercise: Seismic interpretation of tectonic stratigraphy

Geometric characterization of faults in 3-D

  • Fault planes, tip lines and slip distribution
  • Fault-related folding
  • Fault linkage structures (relay ramps)
  • Fault patterns in map view

Exercise: Construct paper relay ramp model

Traps in Extensional Settings

  • Rifting and planar rotational faults
  • Passive margins, gravity collapse and listric faults
  • Extensional traps in foreland basins

Extensional traps in strike slip
Exercise: Post-rift thermal subsidence model

Traps in contractional settings

  • Dynamics of fold and thrust belts
  • Detachment, fault-propagation and fault-bend folding
  • Basement-rooted uplifts
  • Contractional traps in foreland basins (inversion)
  • Contractional traps in strike slip

Exercise: Depth to detachment construction

Salt-bearing systems

  • Models of salt deformation: passive, active and reactive
  • Pillows and diapirs
  • Extrusion, salt sheets and mini-basins
  • Impact of salt on heat flow and maturation

Geomechanics for unconventionals

  • Controls on unconventional production: TOC and maturation
  • Understanding brittleness and fracability
  • Displacement, strain and stress
  • Rheology (elastic, poro-elastic, plastic and viscous)
  • Determination of in situ stress and pore pressure

Hydraulic fractures

  • Review of operations: stages, clusters and pumping pressure
  • Fracture monitoring (surface tilt-meter, micro-seismic and fiber)
  • Failure and propagation criteria
  • Mechanical stratigraphy and fracture height
  • Fracture complexity: length, aperture and flow back

Natural fractures

  • Geometry and hydraulic properties of natural fractures
  • Predictive model: curvature analysis
  • Predictive model: dislocation analysis

Exercise: Curvature analysis

Discrete fracture network models

  • Data characterization: image logs and core
  • Controlling elements map
  • Upscaling and reservoir simulation
  • Interaction of natural fractures with hydraulic fractures

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