MSc Geoscience for Sustainable Energy / Course details

Year of entry: 2022

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Course unit details:
Fundamentals of Petroleum Geoscience

Unit code EART60031
Credit rating 15
Unit level FHEQ level 7 – master's degree or fourth year of an integrated master's degree
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Offered by Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences
Available as a free choice unit? No


Subsurface applied geoscience forms the basis for the interpretation of stratigraphic, structural, mineralogical and hydrological properties in the subsurface. This is critical to the assessment of economic value, since subsurface rock properties and architecture govern how fluids are stored and produced. This unit describes the fundamentals of the subsurface environment, from basin to pore scale, and introduces the key information needed to understand rock physical properties, mechanical strength, permeability and heterogeneity. The unit covers depositional system analysis, with a focus on resource geology (hydrocarbons, geothermal and carbon capture) subsurface data analysis from drilling operations, and the assessment of subsurface uncertainty.

This course unit detail provides the framework for delivery in 20/21 and may be subject to change due to any additional Covid-19 impact.  Please see Blackboard / course unit related emails for any further updates.


This unit is designed to introduce students to the analysis of sedimentary basins, their structure, sedimentary fill and fluids for resource assessment.


Learning outcomes

On the successful completion of the course, students will be able to:


Understand the different types of sedimentary basin, and be able to describe the relationship between basin type, plate tectonics and heat flow


Demonstrate an understanding of sedimentary rock (siliciclastic, carbonate, evaporite) in core and outcrop and explain the relationship between basin evolution and the type and distribution of sediment.


Identify different types of faults from seismic data and in outcrop and explain the fundamental kinematics behind their formation


Calculate pressure and temperature variations with depth using typical from standard subsurface data sets, and interpret the controls and importance for reservoirs and fluids in the subsurface.


Describe how sediments lithify and how rocks change during burial and uplift as a result of physical and chemical processes resulting from rock/water interaction within different basins and at changing pT conditions.


Recognize the main aqueous and petroleum fluids in the subsurface.


Analyse the key processes and controls involved in organic matter maturation, fluid flow, hydrocarbon migration.



Assess the key drivers in subsurface business and the importance of mitigating risk and uncertainty.




Week 1:

Lecture: The Value Chain for development of subsurface resources, uncertainty and risk

Introduction to subsurface analysis, data types and methodology. 

Practical: Subsurface Analysis workflows, data and management. (Prof Jonathan Redfern)


Week 2:

Lecture: Principal types of sedimentary rocks (clastic, carbonate, evaporite), linked to sedimentary basins

Practical: Practical on campus: identification of main grain types in clastics/carbonates, rock descriptions (Dr Stefan Schroeder)


Week 3:

Lecture:  Main rock types and their lithification, and how they change with burial (cementation, compaction, dissolution, recrystallization, organic maturation)

Practical: Rock descriptions (including thin sections?) and key diagenetic features. (Prof Carthy Hollis)


Week 4:

Outcrop Analysis (Field trip / Digital Field Trip), focused on description of different types of sedimentary rock, stratal architecture and deformation. Predicting fluid flow properties in the subsurface. Elements of a petroleum system. Characterising reservoirs for geothermal resources and carbon capture. (Dr Rufus Brunt)



Week 5:

Lecture: Principles of Mapping and Well Correlation

Practical: Taminga Introduction

1.         Well Correlation

2.         Mapping Top Sand and Unconformity (Prof Jonathan Redfern)


Week 6:

Reading week


Week 7:

Lecture: Types of fluids in sedimentary basins, rocks as naturally porous media, aquifers/aquitards/seals, how fluids move (advection/diffusion) and fluid migration (compaction, seismic pumping, convection)

Practical: Reconstruction of fluid flow in a sedimentary basin. (Prof Cathy Hollis)


Week 8

Lecture: How rocks deform. Concepts of extension and compression, types of faults and folds, types of fractures and importance to fluid flow, compartmentalization and trapping

Practical: 1.     Seismic Practical, recognising fault styles  2.Fault plane practical 3.Taminga Practical  (Prof Jonathan Redfern)


Week 9


Lecture: Geochemistry of source rocks, deposition, quality and maturation. Geothermal gradients

Practical: Organic richness, data analysis and interpretation.  Source rock practicals (James Armstrong)


Week 10

Lecture: Geochemistry of source rocks, deposition, quality and maturation. Geothermal gradients

Practical: Organic richness, data analysis and interpretation.  Source rock practicals (James Armstrong)


Week 11

Lecture:  Introduction to deterministic resource assessment to quantity volumes of fluid that can be recovered (or stored) on a subsurface reservoir. Uncertainty and Risk.

Introduction to Uncertainty and Risk

Practical:  Calculating Resource Volumes Taminga. (Prof Jonathan Redfern)


Teaching and learning methods


Practical Exercises.


E-learning resources (video and online tests)


Feedback methods

Assessment type

% Weighting within unit

Hand out and hand in dates



How, when and what feedback is provided

ILO tested



Hand Out week 5 and 8


Hand in week 8 and 12


2 assessed short practicals


Taminga Practical Report

ILO 3 and 4

Online TEST


Exam period

2 hours

Post Test feedback provided

ILO 5-8

Field work report (Individual)


Hand out week 4


Hand in week 8

5 days field class,

10 hours independent study

Written feedback provided

ILO 1-2


Recommended reading

Sedimentary Environments and Facies (HG Reading)

Basin Analysis (Allen and Allen)

Petroleum Geoscience (Gluyaas J and Swarbrick R,  Blackwells, 2003)


Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 28
Practical classes & workshops 30
Independent study hours
Independent study 92

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Jonathan Redfern Unit coordinator

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