MSc Petroleum Geoscience for Reservoir Development and Production / Course details

Year of entry: 2021

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Course unit details:
Fundamentals of Applied Subsurface Geoscience

Unit code EART61031
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 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:


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


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.


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



Week 1:

Lecture: Introduction to plate tectonics and sedimentary basins, methods to describe basins and principle structural and sedimentological features 

Practical: basin identification using seismic data


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:

Scarborough field trip, focused on description of different types of sedimentary rock, stratal architecture and deformation


Week 5:

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: identification of faults and folds on seismic data


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


Week 8

Lecture: Temperature in sedimentary basins, thermal conductivity, geothermal gradient, introduction to source rock maturation, (J Armstrong)

Practical: organic maturation exercise


Week 9

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

Practical: uncertainty and risk exercise

Teaching and learning methods


Practical Exercises.


E-learning resources (video and online tests)


Assessment methods

Method Weight
Written exam 50%
Report 50%

Feedback methods

Assessment type

% Weighting within unit

Hand out and hand in dates



How, when and what feedback is provided

ILO tested



Jan Exam period

1.5 hours

Post Exam feedback provided

ILO 1-7

Field work report (Individual)


Hand out week 4


Hand in week 8

5 days field class,

10 hours independent study

Written feedback provided

ILO 1-3


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 14
Practical classes & workshops 14
Independent study hours
Independent study 122

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Jonathan Redfern Unit coordinator

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