MSc Petroleum Geoscience

Year of entry: 2023

Course unit details:
Prospect Evaluation and Petroleum Economics

Course unit fact file
Unit code EART60162
Credit rating 15
Unit level FHEQ level 7 – master's degree or fourth year of an integrated master's degree
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Offered by Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


This course is designed to provide the skills required to identify and assess subsurface resources, such as developing hydrocarbon play types and petroleum systems, assessing storage for carbon capture, or modelling subsurface geothermal resources.  We assess what data is required and how to undertake an evaluation of leads and prospects, evaluate the risk and uncertainty, and processes that aid decision making in companies.  How to rank prospects, calculate reserves (deterministic and Monte Carlo) and estimate the economic worth of the project.

This is linked with a 5-7 day overseas field trip to examine geological systems, data collection and evaluation.  The trip will go to either Morocco, Mallorca or Ireland.

Morocco: The trip examines a continuous succession of Mesozoic fill of the Central Atlantic margin. Starting in Precambrian basement and sediment source areas we investigate Triassic continental syn-rift deposits, overlain by extensive post-rift Jurassic carbonates and Cretaceous shallow marine deposits.  Opportunity to build skills in rock identification, depositional environments and facies analysis, structural geology.  Exercises on reservoir architecture and fluid flow. Examining an analogue for the Central Atlantic margin petroleum system. Examine and integrate subsurface data (seismic, core and wireline log data).

Mallorca: The focus is on carbonate platforms and reefal systems, exquisitely exposed in the Cap Blanc section. Lagoonal facies and reservoir characteristics are studied at the Cala Pi section. The broader facies architecture and high-resolution sequence stratigraphy of Lluc Major Platform Miocene Oolitic Belt facies is examined from a distance by boat, and the relevance to exploration discussed in evening lectures. The field course also examines examples of karstic collapse; Pleistocene eolianites and Permo-Triassic red bed fluvio-aeolian sediments.

Western Ireland: World class sites in County Clare superbly expose a continuous record of the filling of the Clare basin from deep-water basin floor fans, slope deposits and deltaic/ shallow marine siliciclastics. The trip develops an understanding of depositional environments, petroleum systems, reservoir characterisation and source rocks. Undertake a series of exercises in the field to develop fundamental rock description and interpretation skills. Examine subsurface data (core and wireline log data).

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.



Building on the Integrated Subsurface Description and Oil and Gas Reservoir dynamics modules the student will use these principles and techniques to understand the basics of field development and depletion planning. This will include hands on practical expertise in reservoir evaluation and development planning in an oil field at appraisal and during production.

Geological outcrops provide analogues of petroleum systems. Through fieldwork we aim to assess the controls structure, changing sea level and depositional environments have on the stratigraphic record. Evaluation of the link between sedimentary process and stratigraphy allows us to better predict the quality of potential source rocks, reservoirs, seals and geological structures.



Learning outcomes

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


Outline the various skills, disciplines, techniques and tasks used in the exploration and appraisal of subsurface geology to identify reservoirs (for oil/gas, CO2 storage, geothermal) and elements of a petroleum system (Reservoir, Source, Seal, Trap, Timing).



Undertake a resource volume assessment, using both deterministic and probabilistic (Monte Carlo) methodologies.


Assess subsurface uncertainty and management of risk, resource, rate, profile, development selection and operational focus


Review the evaluation and development of unconventional oil and gas resources such as shale gas and oil


Apply economic workflows and methodologies for financial decision making in the energy industry 


Prepare a financial model for cash flow and rates of return on a development project


Appraise the contribution of depositional systems analysis, understanding and mapping structural and sedimentary process in the evaluation spatial and temporal distribution of reservoirs (for oil and gas, CO2 storage, geothermal) , and other key elements of the petroleum system (source rocks, seals, traps).


Appreciate safe geological practices in all aspects of geological fieldwork.





Component 1:

a.  The main elements of the Play (Reservoir, Seal, Trap) to house fluids in the subsurface.

b. Defining a petroleum system, source, migration, timing

c. Methodologies for description and analysis – mapping, correlation; including analysis of a play fairways case study.

d. Manipulating and mapping data to evaluate leads / prospects.

e. Case studies used to illustrate petroleum provinces, carbon capture, geothermal rresources and selected examples.

f. Deterministic and Monte Carlo methods of estimating reserves.

g. The concepts of Chance of Success, quantification of risk, uncertainty and bias.


Component 2:

h. Use of Petroleum Economics to assess resource value


Component 3:

J .Uses fieldwork to reinforce skills in three-dimensional thinking and visualisation and provide an appreciation of the problems of "scaling up" geological observations to the subsurface models employed by reservoir engineers. Developing models from regional to prospect scale.


Teaching and learning methods

Components 1 and 2 are taught in the class room through lectures and associated practical exercises designed to build understanding. 

If Covid-19 restrictions are in place a move to blended learning, or fully online approaches will be applied. 
Component 3 is taught in the field through a series of hands on observational and interpretive exercises.  

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Other 40%
Written assignment (inc essay) 30%
Report 30%

Feedback methods

Assessment type

% Weighting within unit

Hand out and hand in dates



How, when and what feedback is provided

ILO tested

Assignment (field exercise)


Week 14

Daily exercises: logs, sketches, descriptions / interpretations

Written individual feedback on field exercises next day. Synthesis exercise feedback provided within 14 days.


Basin evaluation:


Resource Assessment


Wk 10


Wk 11

15 mins talk and PPT


Short Report

In class feedback on talk



Written feedback




2, 3, 4

Pet economics:

Online test


Semester 2

2 hours

Class level feedback. Opportunity provided to review exam scripts.



Recommended reading

Megill, R., E. 1979 An Introduction to Exploration Economics. Pennwell Books


Yarus, JM; Chambers, RL 1995. Stochastic Modelling and Geostatistics: Principles, Methods and Case Studies, 322, AAPG Computer Applications in Geology ISBN: 0891817026


Schatzinger, A 1999. Reservoir Characterization: Recent Advances, 570B, AAPG Memoir ISBN: 0891813519


Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Fieldwork 37
Lectures 25
Practical classes & workshops 25
Independent study hours
Independent study 63

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Jonathan Redfern Unit coordinator

Additional notes

Contact hours: 50 and 5 field days

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