MSc Petroleum Geoscience

Year of entry: 2023

Course unit details:
Fundamentals of Applied Subsurface Geoscience

Course unit fact file
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
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 the subsurface architecture will govern how fluids are stored and produced. This unit describes the fundamentals of the subsurface environment, from basin scale to the pore scale, and provides the key information needed to understand rock physical properties, mechanical strength, permeability and heterogeneity. The unit covers petroleum system analysis, subsurface drilling operations, and the assessment of subsurface uncertainty.


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:


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


Identify and describe different types 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.


Describe pressure and temperature variations with depth, interpret these 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.


Name the main aqueous and petroleum fluids in the subsurface. Describe the key processes and controls involved in organic matter maturation, fluid flow, hydrocarbon migration.


Be able to assess uncertainty and risk in the subsurface.


Map subsurface features, correlate subsurface well data and evaluate the volume of fluids in a subsurface structure.



Week 1:

Lecture: Global Energy supply and demand. The Value Chain for development of subsurface resources, uncertainty and risk

Practical: Subsurface Exploration Exercise


Week 2:

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

Practical: hand specimens and core to identify and describe different types of sedimentary rock (grain size, sorting, sedimentary structures, Dunham classification for carbonates)


Week 3:

Lecture:  How rocks lithify and change (cementation, compaction, dissolution, recrystallization, organic maturation)

Practical: rock descriptions (including thin sections?) of diagenetic features


Week 4:

Series of one day field trips to Cheshire Basin / Peak District (3 Days)<

Teaching and learning methods


Practical Exercises.


E-learning resources (video and online tests)


Assessment methods

Method Weight
Written exam 40%
Report 30%
Practical skills assessment 30%

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 9


Hand in week after exam period


2 assessed short practicals


Taminga Practical Report

ILO 7 and 8



Exam period

2 hours

Post Test feedback provided

ILO 1, 3 - 6

Field work report (Individual)


Hand out on field class


Hand in week 7

5 days field class,

10 hours independent study

Written feedback provided



Recommended reading

Sedimentary Environments and Facies (HG Reading)

Basin Analysis (Allen and Allen)

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

BP Energy Outlook

For Information and advice on Link2Lists reading list software, see:

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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