Course Description

Petroleum Geoscience for Non-Specialists Workshop

Duration: 4 days

  • Presenter: Dr Michael Ala (Imperial College London)
  • Prerequisites: This is a course for non-specialists and no prior knowledge of Earth sciences is necessary.
  • Aims: To cover the fundamentals of the Earth sciences, examine their role in controlling the occurrence, distribution and quantification of ‘conventional’ oil and gas reserves; review the ‘non-conventional’ hydrocarbon resources; provide an introduction to the ‘peak oil’ debate.
  • Who should attend? Non-Earth scientists with little or no background in geology, geophysics or the processes that control the formation and distribution of oil and oil and gas resources.


Learning Outcomes: The course presents the principles and practices underpinning the Earth sciences and demonstrates how they can be applied to hydrocarbon exploration and production. The participants will gain an understanding of the factors and processes involved in the formation of oil and gas fields and their worldwide distribution. 

Day – 1

  • The Earth: its properties, internal structure and age
  • Earth sciences: definition and overview
  • Various types of rocks, their origins and examples
  • Rocks associated with oil and gas:
    1. Sedimentary rocks: their origin, key features and associated terminology
    2. Depositional environments, processes and the concept of facies
  • Introduction to geological time, principles of stratigraphy and stratigraphic relations:
    1. The concepts of relative and absolute time
    2. Measurement of geological time
    3. The Uniformitarian Principle
    4. The Law of Superposition
    5. Unconformities
    6. Sequence startigraphy
    7. Establishing lithostratigraphic and biostratigraphic units
    8. Correlation.
  • Principles of structural geology: various types of geological structures (folds, faults and thrusts) and their relationship to oil and gas occurrence
  • Practical session

Day – 2

  • Definition of oil and gas fields
  • Habitat of oil and gas and factor that control their occurrence
  • Processes that control the occurrence of oil and gas fields
  • Geological controls on oil and gas occurrence
  • Sedimentary basins:
    1. Definition
    2. Formation and development
    3. Global distribution
    4. Exploration status
    5. Production status
  • Association between sedimentary basins and oil and gas occurrence
  • Overview of plate tectonics
  • Plate tectonics control on the formation, evolution and characteristics of sedimentary basins
  • Petroleum substances – chemical composition of oil and gas
  • Petroleum systems analysis in terms of elements and processes:
    1. Source rocks: origin, burial history and maturation
    2. Generation of petroleum
    3. Migration of petroleum
    4. Petroleum reservoir rocks and their properties
    5. Oil and gas traps
    6. Seals
    7. Timing of events and processes

Day – 3

  • Play concept
  • Exploring for oil and gas – sources of data
  • Acquisition and interpretation of geological and geophysical data: Seismic sequence stratigraphy
  • Subsurface mapping: Various types of contour maps
  • Reserves: Definition and classification
  • Reserves estimation:
    1. Volumetric (the deterministic and probabilistic methods)
    2. Performance analysis
  • Leads and prospects
  • Risk and risk analysis
  • Practical session

Day 4

  • Acquisition and interpretation of open hole logs
    1. Various types of well logs
    2. Acquisition of well log data
    3. Principles of well log data interpretation
    4. Practical session

The global petroleum industry

  • Some recent trends in the petroleum industry
  • Importance of oil in modern societies
  • Overview of prices and politics of oil and gas – historical review of the price of oil over the past 150 years (since 1861)
  • The main events of the last decade
  • Review of the major players in the past 25 years – private oil company rankings in terms of turnover and market capitalization
  • State oil company rankings
  • Biofuels – a panacea?
  • Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC)
  • Definitions of reserves
  • Global distribution of oil and gas reserves
  • Sources of information
  • Giant fields – definition and significance
  • The world’s top 25 oil fields – locations and reserves
  • Regions of high potential for future discoveries
  • Global oil and gas production
  • Oil and gas reserves/production ratios
  • Global oil and gas trade and consumption
  • Non-conventional hydrocarbon resources – tar sands, oil shales and heavy oil
  • Future world energy supplies:
    1.  Concept of ‘peak oil and gas’
    2. Review of various ‘peak oil and gas’ scenarios
  • Selected recent publications

Course material: A CD containing the full text and all the illustrations used in the presentation.

Price per delegate £3300.00

Location: London

Group Booking

We can schedule a class for this course (subject to time and location). For further information please contact us.

In-house Training

If you would like this course delivered in house, please let us know where and approximately when you would like the training to take place. For this service please contact us.


Dr Ala

Dr Michael Ala has been closely associated with the oil industry for more than 30 years. He has a BSc in Oil Technology and an MSc, PhD and DIC in Petroleum Geology from Imperial College. In 1972 he joined Seagull Exploration International and since 1981 he has been a member of the academic staff in the Earth Science Department of Imperial College. Dr Ala has published more than 50 research and review articles. Since 1982 he has been organizing and presenting numerous industrial training programs in Europe, north Africa, west Africa and southeast Asia. Click here to read more about him…