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Course Descriptions

This page contains summaries and course outlines of the courses offered through the Petroleum Geology Professional Masters Program. Selecting a course title from the list below will jump to the relevant section of the page.

  1. 3D Seismic Exploration I
  2. Advanced Structural Geology
  3. Applied Biostratigraphy
  4. Basin Modeling
  5. Carbonate Sedimentology
  6. Petroleum Geochemistry
  7. Petroleum Geology
  8. Petroleum Seismology
  9. Petrophysics and Formation Evaluation
  10. Seismic Amplitude Interpretation
  11. Sequence Stratigraphy
  12. Terrigenous Depositional Systems
  13. Capstone Project

3-D Seismic Exploration I (3 credit hours)

Course Description: This course will focus on the seismic expression of structural and stratigraphic geologic features. Course development leads to skills necessary to interpret and generate petroleum prospects using 3D seismic data and well control.

Course Outline

  1. Synthetic seismogram and horizon tracking
  2. Time structure, gridding, and fault interpretation
  3. Stratigraphy, attributes, horizon contouring, and amplitude anomalies
  4. Gulf of Mexico prospect workshop
  5. Student prospect presentations

Advanced Structural Geology (3 credit hours)

The primary objective is to explain structural geology concepts and tools that aid in developing an internally consistent 3-D picture of the crustal structure, and evaluating specific reservoir characteristics such as top seal integrity and fault seal. Together, the instructors and students will develop a structural analysis "best practices" workflow. The class is structured according to tectonic setting (e.g. passive margins, transform margins, fold-thrust belts, continental rift systems). Within each tectonic setting, we cover regional geology, fault system geometry, kinematics, trap evolution, and the tools a practicing geologist would use to constrain a 3-D picture of the crustal structure.

Course Outline

  1. Geologic map interpretation
  2. Fault and fold system classification based on tectonic setting
  3. Geometric analysis of faults and folds
  4. Visualization techniques. (Geoviz, VoxelGeo)
  5. Fault system geometry and evolution with case studies local and regional.
  6. Fault system evolution based on case studies
  7. Cross-section reconstruction
  8. Fault Seal/Stratigraphic Juxtaposition Analysis
  9. Rift history analysis
  10. Fractured reservoir analysis

Applied Biostratigraphy (3 credit hours)

This course is designed to provide an introduction to applied biostratigraphic methods. Fundamentals of age determination, stratigraphic correlation, and interpretation of depositional environments using paleontological data are presented. Integration of biostratigraphic data with other exploration data is covered and quantitative methods are introduced.

Course Outline

  1. Introduction and overview of the applications of biostratigraphy
  2. Data types and using multi-sourced and varied vintage data sets
  3. Bioevents and Zonation Schemes
  4. The Fossil Record
  5. Important Microfossil Groups
  6. Stratigraphic Principles
  7. Time Scales
  8. Graphic Correlation and Composite Standards (GC&CS)
  9. Applications of GC&CS
  10. Integration of Multiple Types of Geological and Geophyscial Data with Biostratigraphy
  11. Paleobathymetry
  12. Paleoclimatology, Paleogeography, Paleo-oceanography/Limnology

Course Objectives

Upon completion of this course, students will:

  1. Have a basic understanding of how biostratigraphic data is generated and how to use and evaluate biostratigraphic datasets whether public, commercial, or proprietary.
  2. Have an understanding of biostratigraphy as a relative and absolute age tool kit.
  3. Have an understanding of biostratigraphy as toolkit for determining environments of deposition and paleobiology.
  4. Learn a number of ways to interpret biostratigraphic data with outcrop and well data and to integrate that data with sequence stratigraphy, seismic data, and basin development.
  5. Review applications using biostratigraphic data to define important basin and reservoir-scaled parameters to interpret reservoir and petroleum systems.

Carbonate Sedimentology (3 credit hours)

This course will provide an overview of the origin, diagenesis, and common depositional environments of carbonate accumulations. Most of the course will be devoted to descriptions of the sediment in modern depositional environments; examples will also be included from the rock record.

Course Outline

  1. General overview of carbonates
  2. Conditions that influence carbonate formation
  3. Carbonate constituents: allochems, micrite, and cements
  4. Diagenesis of carbonates, e.g., ups and downs of porosity
  5. Modern and ancient carbonate depositional systems

Petroleum Geochemistry (3 credit hours)

This course provides an overview of basic petroleum geochemistry fundamentals with strong emphasis on applications to exploration and production. Various aspects of hydrocarbon generation and accumulation are discussed and this is followed with lectures on geochemical methods, markers, modeling, coal-bed methane and case studies.

Course Outline

  1. Introduction and review of fundamentals
  2. Geochemical methods
  3. Geological and geochemical constraints on hydrocarbon generation and accumulation
  4. Geochemical correlation, “inversion,” and modeling
  5. Geochemistry in exploitation and development (reservoir geochemistry)
  6. Introduction to coal-bed methane
  7. Case studies

Petroleum Geology (3 credit hours)

Course Description: Cr. 3 (3-0). Prerequisite: GEOL 3345, and GEOL 3350, or consent of instructor. Credit may not be given for both GEOL 4382, and GEOL 6381. Fundamentals of petroleum geology; source rock, reservoir, and trap studies; well log and seismic interpretation, petroleum geochemistry, and mapping.

Course Objectives

  1. Have a basic understanding of the petroleum system, petroleum as a resource, and the value chain.
  2. Have a basic understanding of a broad array of tools used in the search for and production of hydrocarbon reserves.
  3. Understand how geologists conduct the search for petroleum resources through the value chain or the life cycle of a petroleum resource.  This will include the processes involved and actual examples.
  4. Learn details on how to begin evaluating a hydrocarbon play and developing a prospect.
  5. Obtain skills in correlating potential reservoir rocks and recognizing normal faults with log data.
  6. Learn the principles of mapping a subsurface reservoir and estimating the volumetrics.

Course Content

  1. Petroleum as a resource.
  2. Terms, concepts, and the value chain.
  3. Reservoir Rocks
  4. Structures and trap configurations
  5. Typical and specialized logging suites
  6. Geophysical tools integrated with geology
  7. Correlation principles and exercise
  8. Sequence stratigraphy primer and applications
  9. Frontier exploration and examples
  10. Exploration and Exploitation and examples
  11. Appraisal Methods and Examples
  12. Reservoir mapping and volumetrics
  13. Development and examples
  14. Unconventional Resources

Petroleum Seismology (3 credit hours)

Principles and methods in petroleum seismology, with emphasis on exploringand characterizing petroleum reservoirs using seismic methods.

Expected Learning Outcomes

Upon completion of this course, students will gain an essential knowledge in:

  • The purposes and principles of common seismic data processing, imaging and analysis methods employed in the petroleum industry.
  • The main technical issues in exploring onshore and offshore petroleum reservoirs using seismology, such as in assessing the suitability of using common seismic methods for petroleum targets.
  • Using various seismic techniques to enhance signals and suppress noise in reflection seismic data to help detecting hydrocarbon reservoirs.
  • Applying borehole geophysics and well logging techniques to tie with seismic and geological data to help achieving the exploration objectives.
  • Common issues and techniques of applied seismology for characterizing petroleum reservoirs.
  • Current issues in exploring unconventional petroleum reservoirs using seismology.

Petrophysics and Formation Evaluation (3 credit hours)

This course covers the basic methods of open-hole well log analysis, and covers logging suite choices. New logging developments and current research are also covered. Special focus on certain methods is provided (e.g. 3D VSP, borehole imaging, pore pressure prediction).

Course Outline

  1. Introduction to petrophysics.
  2. Basic petrophysical logging methods (nuclear, electrical, acoustic, imaging.
  3. Application and use of basic SP, gamma ray, porosity and resistivity logs.
  4. Lithology identification.
  5. Identification of pay intervals.
  6. Computer analysis.
  7. Standard well logging suites.
  8. Special logs and interpretation techniques.
  9. New logging developments and research.

Seismic Amplitude Interpretation (3 credit hours)

Course Description: Fundamental concepts and foundations of wave and ray theory necessary for seismic processing, imaging, AVO analysis and structural interpretation.

Course Outline

  1. Review of rock properties, wave, and ray theory
  2. Reservoir properties and well-log measurements
  3. Seismic amplitude variation as a function of offset
  4. Principles of fluid substitution
  5. Parameterization of the AVO response for fluid product estimation
  6. Recognition of hydrocarbon signatures and interpretive "rules-of-thumb"
  7. AVO inversion for rock-properties, impedances and reflectivities
  8. The information content & complications in long offset and post critical data
  9. Fizz gas, anisotropy, and other challenges facing the exploration industry

Sequence Stratigraphy (3 credit hours)

This course is designed to provide a basic understanding of sequence stratigraphy. Covers the use of seismic reflection data to study lithology, geometry, and depositional history of sedimentary bodies; factors affecting resolution and velocity; and new techniques for identifying lithologies. Integrates current concepts on interaction of tectonics, sea level and sediment supply to generate predictive models for architecture of sedimentary basin fill.

Course Outline

  1. Basic Concepts and Terminology of Sequence Stratigraphy
  2. The Stratigraphic Building Blocks of Depositional Sequences
  3. Recognition Criteria for the Identification of Depositional sequences and their Components in Outcrops, Cores, Well Logs, and Seismic
  4. The Application of Sequence Stratigraphy in Non-marine, Shallow Marine, and Submarine Depositional Settings

Terrigenous Depositional Systems (3 credit hours)

This course is designed to provide a concise overview of the most common terrigenous sedimentary environments. The primary objectives are to understand the conditions under which different types of deposits form, and the characteristics (e.g., geometry, sedimentary structures, grain size relationships, fossils,) by which they can be recognized. In order to establish the criteria for the recognition of the different depositional environments, modern settings will be emphasized.

Course Outline

  1. Origin and classification of terrigenous sediments
  2. Variables controlling grain composition and texture
  3. Origin and description of sedimentary structures
  4. Alluvial fan, eolian, and, lacustrine depositional systems
  5. Fluvial depositional systems
  6. Deltas and chenier plains
  7. Barrier islands, strandplains, and associated facies
  8. Estuaries and tidal flats
  9. Siliciclastic shelves
  10. Slope, submarine fan, & deep marine deposits

Capstone Project

Instructor: Faculty (University of Houston)

Purpose: The Capstone Project is intended to be somewhat like a mini-thesis with slightly different objectives. First, it serves as a final project for the petroleum geology program. Secondly, it gives students an opportunity to integrate their newly learned skill-sets and methods along with their exposure to various types of datasets in the program curriculum and on the job to design and execute an integrated project into a coherent conclusion or recommendation. This makes the Capstone Project somewhat like the first step oil professionals would take after completing a degree with a Masters thesis. The Capstone is, to some extent, a developmental jump ahead of a thesis since the student is actually completing a project report and review similar to what would be expected of him or her on the job.

Capstone projects may cover a wide-variety of topics, but for the Specialization in Petroleum Geology, field studies or elements of field studies would be excellent for the Capstone Project. Regional studies or the development of play fairways and play concepts would also be appropriate as long as the student is careful not to create a project that is too large to complete in the time allotted.

Scale of Project: The most critical limiting element in the Capstone is the time constraint. Projects should be doable with two months at a half-time effort after planning and data gathering.

Another important aspect is that data must be readily available. There is no time to wait for acquisition or processing. The best type of data would be data that has been analyzed and previously used for a study with open questions remaining regarding the interpretation or meaning of some of the datasets. Datasets in publications would be appropriate if a question or problem about that dataset could be formulated and analyzed.

The size or scope of the study generally should be at the field scale. If the student can get data on play fairways or exploration trends and evaluate one or more critical elements that would be appropriate. Also, students could critically review previous field studies or play fairways to shed light on the validity or strength of various elements of a play definition or a field delineation based on technology and skill sets the student has acquired during the course of the masters curriculum.

Corporate Involvement: Companies that would like their employees to work on in-house problems are encouraged to do so.  The Capstone Project is intended to prepare the students for real project work in companies.  If the student can work on a well-defined company problem with stated objectives it would be an excellent topic for a Capstone.   If the company requires confidentiality we can accommodate any level of confidentiality required as long as the advisor is allowed to openly review the data sets and evaluate the actual level of participation by the student.   We want to insure that the student can complete the project in the limited amount of time and also that it is the student’s work that we are evaluating.

Proposal Format: The following format is suggested for the proposal but can be modified to fit a specific project.

  • Paragraph 1 – Introduction: Write what it is, where it is, and briefly mention past related work.
  • Paragraph 2 – Problem or objective of project:  What problem are you solving orworking on to arrive at some level of resolution.   Why is it important (e.g. economic reason) to resolve this issue. 
  • Paragraph 3 – Data to address the objective will clearly be indicated. 
  • Paragraph 4 – Timing and workflow model with an attached Gantt Chart or work-flow model indicating timing of task completion.
  • Paragraph 5 – Expected Outcome: Given the dataset, the problem and issues, what will be the expected result(s) of this effort?

Committee Structure: The only requirement is that you must have at least onefaculty member from the Professional Program as committee chairman. All other members are optional and can be from the department, the university, government, academia, or industry.

Write-Up and Format: The Capstone should have several sections or chapters.  The final report will be written and an oral presentation (see below) will be made.  The minimum length of the report should be about 10 double-spaced pages and the maximum length should be 25 double-spaced pages.  The format should be similar to the guideline listed below.

  • Section I:  Executive Summary
  • Section II:  Statement of Problem and Initial Objectives
  • Section III:  Background of Study Area and Technology or Methods
  • Section IV:  Results of Study or Analyses
  • Section V:  Conclusion or Recommendations
  • Section VI:  References
  • Appendices:  Proposal will be Appendix 1.  Charts, Maps, Seismic Sections will be additional appendices.

As a style guide please refer to a recent AAPG Bulletin or SEG Geophysics to see the punctuation, reference, citation, etc. styles.

Presentation and Format: You are open to use any of the following for an oral presentation. The presentations will be approximately 20 minutes long and focused on results, conclusions, and recommendations.

Posters: Up to 4 posters and maps can be used during the oral presentation.

Powerpoint: Powerpoint presentations with less than 30 slides covering the topics listed in the write-up and format for the report.

Audience: This is largely up to the student because of potential confidentiality issues. The preferred audience would be to invite all professional program professors, students and committee members. However, only the committee members (at least one, your advisor) must attend and the director of professional programs must be invited.

Therefore, additional attendees will be at the discretion of the student or on the basis of confidentiality agreements pertaining to the datasets used by the student. The director of the professional programs will provide feedback on necessary steps for completion in an advisory capacity to the actual Capstone Advisor and committee if there are others on the committee.

Grading: A letter grade is provided upon successful completion of the presentation and appropriate editing of the report as requested by the advisor and the committee.