MSc Petroleum Geoscience

Year of entry: 2023

Course unit details:
Play Fairway Analysis

Course unit fact file
Unit code EART60391
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? Yes


Sedimentary basins form in areas where subsidence of the Earth’s crust occurs over an extended period of time. Basin Analysis is the conceptual study of the sedimentary successions that infill the resulting basins.  This unit investigates the structural, environmental and depositional processes that govern the transport and deposition of both clastic and carbonate sediments.  Attention is paid to the consequences of natural variability within a sedimentary system versus external controls imparted by factors such as variation in sea level.  It will discuss how these fundamental sedimentological processes plus diagenesis control the spatial and temporal variability of clastic and carbonate sedimentary successions in the stratigraphic record. As part of the unit, training in the in the logging of core is provided, a key skill for interpreting sub-surface datasets. Application of these skills and concepts provides a method of predicting the lateral and vertical extent of sedimentary facies in areas where data is sparse, and therefore a greater understanding of all elements of a sedimentary system in the sub-surface. The unit considers how the properties of these depositional elements influence the economic value of sedimentary deposits as potential reservoirs of hydrocarbons, water and geothermal fluids or through Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS).

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.


Basin Analysis investigates the structural and environmental controls that govern the spatial and temporal variability of clastic and carbonate sedimentary systems.  The course aims to demonstrate how application of these concepts can be used as a method of predicting the lateral and vertical extent of sedimentary facies in areas where data is sparse, and therefore a greater understanding of all elements of a sedimentary system in the sub-surface. The course provides the theoretical background and practical skills required to understand the structure and evolution of sedimentary basins, together with an integrated understanding of the controls on basin fills to provide insight on the stratigraphic record.

Learning outcomes

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

ILO 1 Derive the structural style, subsidence history and sedimentary fill of the main types of sedimentary basin from typical datasets (developed, assessed)

ILO 2 Describe and classify carbonate and clastic sediments in outcrop, core and thin section (developed, assessed)

ILO 3 Demonstrate how both early and late diagenetic processes affect carbonate sediments (developed, assessed)

ILO 4 Use observations from a sedimentary succession to derive a facies scheme and evaluate the dynamics of the depositional environment (developed, assessed)

ILO 5 Distinguish the effects autocyclic and allocyclic controls have on the vertical and lateral variability of sediments deposited in clastic and carbonate environments (developed, assessed)

ILO 6 Derive GDE (Gross Depositional Environment) maps to honour interpretations gained from typical surface and subsurface datasets (developed, assessed)

ILO 7 Identify the hierarchical building blocks of sedimentary systems in order to predict the 3D distribution of sedimentary environments, facies and rock properties (developed, assessed)

ILO 8 Evaluate the source and effect of uncertainty associated with depositional and reservoir models 


The course is delivered as lectures and associated practicals.  During practical classes, you will have the opportunity to discuss and interact with staff and demonstrators. Feedback is given for the assessed practicals, other practicals are discussed in the class.
Sedimentary rocks: identification, classification and interpretation.
Component 1: Clastic Reservoirs
TUTOR: Dr Rufus Brunt
[1] Depositional processes, facies models and depositional environments.
[2] Terrestrial depositional systems from fluvial to aeolian systems.
[3] Deltaic and shallow marine systems.
[4] Deep water systems from continental slope to basin floor.
[5] Assessed component is conducted at the British Geological Survey core store. Task: logging and play fairway interpretation of classic UK sector drill core  (Note – if conditions do not allow, in-house core at Manchester will be used)
Component 2: Carbonate Reservoirs

TUTORS: Dr Stefan Schroeder, Prof. Cathy Hollis
[1] Carbonate facies and depositional environments.
[2] Porosity, permeability, diagenesis control on reservoir properties: early and late burial diagenesis.
[3] Sedimentology and stratigraphy: fundamental controls and concepts - facies, basins and the geometry of sediment fill, introduction to carbonate sequence stratigraphy.
[4] Carbonate sedimentology and the Petroleum Play.
[5] Source rocks in hydrocarbon systems.
[6] Carbonate reservoir characterization: tools and industry applications.  Assessed through end of course open book assessment.
Component 3: Sequence Stratigraphy
TUTOR: Prof. Stephen Flint
(i) Seismic and sequence stratigraphy (including biostratigraphy)
(ii)Tectono-sedimentary interactions and controls on basin fill in order to study the development, evolution and hydrocarbon prospectively of sedimentary basins.
Assessed through end of course open book assessment.

Component 4: Petroleum Systems
TUTOR: Prof. Richard Dixon
An assessed group project involving the analysis and integration of a set oilfield data which is presented to the rest of the class.

Teaching and learning methods

This unit has 4 interlinked components: It begins by looking at basin frameworks and the controls on sedimentary systems, before examining clastic and carbonate systems. All components are taught through lecture and hands-on practical sessions to reinforce concepts. A key part of each component is drill core. Workshops teach the practicalities of professional standard core description using in-house samples and an excursion to the BGS core repository with assessments based on the data collected.
The Play Fairway Analysis group project provides students with the opportunity to apply the skills they have acquired to a large scale study composed of multiple sources of data. 

Assessment methods

Open Book assessment (carbonates & seq. strat) (50%)
Clastics: Report (individual) (25%)

Oral (group) (25%)

Feedback methods

Open Book assessment (carbonates & seq. strat) (50%) - Written individual feedback via Blackboard / email
Clastics: Report (individual) (25%) - Written individual feedback via Blackboard

Oral (group) (25%) - Group feedback via email


Recommended reading

• Adams A.E. and Mackenzie W.S. (1998) A colour atlas of Carbonate Sediments and Rocks Under the Microscope Manson Publishing, 180p.
• Aplin A.C. (2000) Mineralogy of modern marine sediments: A geochemical framework. In Vaughan D.J. and Wogelius R.A. Eds. Environmental Mineralogy p. 125 - 172
• Bjorlykke, K. (2010) Petroleum Geoscience - From Sedimentary Environments to Rock Physics. Springer, 508p.
• Coe A.L. (2003) The Sedimentary Record of Sea-Level Change Cambridge University Press. 288p.
• Gluyas J and Swarbrick R (2004) Petroleum Geoscience. Blackwell Scientific, 359 p.
• Leeder M.R. Sedimentology, Process and Product. George Allen and Unwin, 344p.
• Miall, A.D., (2015) Stratigraphy: A Modern Synthesis, 433p.
• Nichols G.J. (2009) Sedimentology and Stratigraphy, 2nd Ed, Blackwell 432p.
• Tucker M.E. Wright V.P., (1990) Carbonate Sedimentology. Blackwell. 496p.
• Wignall P.B. (1994) Black Shales Blackwell, 127p.

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 25
Practical classes & workshops 45
Independent study hours
Independent study 80

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Rufus Brunt Unit coordinator

Additional notes

Other Scheduled teaching and learning activities: Paper based practicals to reinforce classroom taught concepts. Visit to the BGS core store.

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