Oil and Gas

Oil and Gas | Carbonates

Advanced Concepts in Carbonate Exploration and Reservoir Characterisation (Northern Spain)

Course Code: N143
Course Outline:  Download
Format and Duration
6 days


This advanced carbonates field course analyses a series of outstanding outcrops to examine modern concepts in carbonate reservoir geology. Three principal themes are: the nature of carbonate shelf architecture (with specific analogues for PreCaspian Palaeozoic carbonates) through a seismic-scale outcrop transect; hydrothermal dolomite plays and their structural controls; and shelf geometry and mixing-zone palaeokarstic porosity associated with third-order sea level changes. 


Excellent presentation of multiple carbonate depositional systems. Outcrops & documentation are outstanding.

Duration and Training Method

A six-day field course to northern Spain (Picos de Europa, Cantabrian Mountains and Sierra de Urbasa). Training will be field based with ample time for general discussions. Oil field analogues will be integrated into the discussions to enhance the utility of the course.

Course Overview

Participants will learn to:

  1. Characterise different lithofacies and their distribution in lower slope, upper slope, outer and inner platform in a microbially dominated carbonate platform of Upper Carboniferous age and construct a depositional model.
  2. Compare the geometries observed in the Sierra del Cuera platform with seismic-scale features from the subsurface.
  3. Assess the reservoir potential of the Upper Carboniferous of the Sierra del Cuera and compare with other microbially-dominated carbonate platforms and dissimilar coralgal reef systems.
  4. Characterise the platform interior cyclicity in icehouse system and compare and contrast icehouse vs. greenhouse interiors in terms of reservoir architecture.
  5. Perform field observations of stratal patterns, depositional geometry and lithofacies distribution and apply to reservoir modelling of PreCaspian reservoirs.
  6. Assess the products and debate the processes involved in hydrothermal dolomite (HTD) formation, and the importance of fault-related fluid flow and porosity development.
  7. Appraise the stratigraphic architecture of seismic-scale Paleogene carbonate platform systems, including coral-algal reefs and slopes, and relate this to 2nd order sea level cycles and long-term variations in shallow carbonate factories (from Paleocene coralgal reef-rimmed shelves to Eocene larger foraminifer-dominated ramp systems) and the application of this knowledge to understand subsurface reservoir examples in North Africa and the middle East.
  8. Assess in terms of facies, distribution and reservoir properties the early reflux dolomitisation processes affecting the interior of a layered greenhouse shelf, and comparison with classic reflux dolomite models established in Ordovician, Devonian and Permian platforms from North America.
  9. Characterise at outcrop scale the key porosity types of a shelf-edge macroporosity palaeokarst system developed following a 3rd order lowstand, with evaluation of their spatial distribution, interrelationships and the inferred genetic paleohydrological model.
  10. Evaluate the variations in macroporosity development in different palaeokarstic reservoirs, and how these impact upon development strategies, well location, well types and completion strategies.



Part 1 – Carbonate Shelf Architecture: walking from the platform down into the basin. The Sierra del Cuera area of the Cantabrian Mountains illustrates the development, from seismic-scale outcrops, of an Upper Carboniferous carbonate shelf system. This part of the course involves a transect from the platform interior (including examining facies continuity and geometry) across the actual margin and down the slope examining clinoforms and toe of slope facies. Although this part of the course provides a spectacular opportunity to examine general issues about shelf carbonates, it will be especially useful to those involved in the PreCaspian carbonates of Kazakhstan.

Part 2 – Cretaceous hydrothermal dolomites of the Karrantza valley: the hydrothermal dolomite (HTD) play concept is of major interest for Palaeozoic basins in North America (Slave Point, Trenton-Black River) but also in parts of the Middle East and offshore India. This part of the course will use outstanding outcrops to review the key concepts of this important play type.

Part 3 – Understanding palaeokarstic porosity associated with 3rd order sequence boundary: Danian Palaeokarst Systems of the Urbasa-Andia area, Navarra, north Spain. The spectacular Danian (Paleocene) shelf carbonates in this area provide the opportunity to discuss and examine at first hand how porosity develops due to lowstand processes across a shelf transect deep into an ancient shelf interior. Themes include the shelf geometry of a coral-algal system, platform margin fracture zones, cave systems, and how meteoric discharge and sea water mixing creates changes in macroporosity types.

Course Itinerary

Day 0
Participants arrive at Asturias airport, transfer to Arenas de Cabrales.

Day 1 and 2
Fieldwork examining a Pennsylvanian microbially-dominated carbonate platform in the Sierra del Cuera. Observations will be made at both seismic and reservoir scale at coastal and mountain outcrops. Based in Arenas de Cabrales.

Day 3
Transfer from Asturias to Pais Vasco. En route examine a fracture-hosted dolomite body in a Cretaceous platform margin, Cantabria. Overnight Vitoria-Gasteiz.

Day 4 and 5
The Danian carbonate platforms in the Urbasa-Andia area, Navarra and the development of palaeokarstic porosity associated with sea level lowstands. Based in Vitoria-Gasteiz.

Day 6
Evolution of early Tertiary platforms into carbonate ramp systems. Travel to Bilbao.

Day 7
Participants free to depart Bilbao.

This advanced course is principally aimed at experienced carbonate workers who will benefit most from discussion of the concepts presented with the tutors and their peers. If you have a reasonable understanding of carbonate systems you will be able to further develop your skills with this in-depth look at shelf configurations and different secondary porosity models. The course will be particularly useful to those involved in exploration but also aspects of reservoir modelling of HTD and palaeokarst systems will be emphasized.   

Juan Bahamonde

He worked as a geologist for a mining company and for the Spanish Geological Survey (IGME) before joining the Department of Geology at the University of Oviedo in 1993.  He is currently a senior lecturer in stratigraphy and sedimentology, and is mainly involved in the teaching of geology of Spain, sedimentary geology and carbonate facies.

His research is primarily field based and focuses on the evolution of the variscan foreland basin of the Cantabrian Zone (Iberian Massif, NW Spain) and is particularly on the Carboniferous carbonate systems of this area.  He has been working with researchers of the universities of Oviedo, Salamanca, Amsterdam, Bochum, Geneva, Cardiff and Milan. In his career, he has co-authored several articles and communications on these topics and has co-led many field trips, for both industry and academia.

Affiliations and Accreditation
PhD University of Oviedo - Geology
MSc University of Oviedo - Geology

Courses Taught
N143: Advanced Concepts in Carbonate Exploration and Reservoir Characterization (Northern Spain)

Giovanna Della Porta

In 2005, she was appointed a Lecturer in Basin Analysis and Sedimentology at the University of Cardiff, School of Earth and Ocean Sciences. At Cardiff she taught basin analysis, petroleum geology, and sedimentology. Since 2005, she has been involved in geological excursions, field mapping training, various projects and master theses on carbonate sedimentology. Since July 2009, she has been appointed as Lecturer/Researcher at the Department of Earth Sciences, University of Milan, Italy. Her teaching and research activities focus on the themes of carbonate sedimentology and stratigraphy.

Giovanna Della Porta’s training has been in sedimentary geology with particular interest in carbonate sedimentology. Her postgraduate specialization is in the subject of carbonate platforms characterized by microbial precipitation from the late Palaeozoic to Cenozoic. These topics have a significant impact on the understanding of Pricaspian Basin carbonate reservoirs. She has a broad range of interests within carbonate sedimentology, but concentrates primarily on carbonate microbial precipitation. In more recent times her interests have extended to the processes and products of non marine carbonate precipitation of calcareous tuffs and hot-spring travertine.

Affiliations and Accreditation
PhD Free University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Courses Taught
N143: Advanced Concepts in Carbonate Exploration and Reservoir Characterization (Northern Spain)

Juan Ignacio Baceta

Following completion of his B.Sc. in Geology, he got a Research Grant in 1989 to develop his doctoral thesis on sedimentology and sequence stratigraphy of Paleogene carbonates from the Pyrenean basin, at the Basque Country University in Bilbao. In 1993, he joined the local geology industry and during 4 years developed several projects concerning exploration for mineral and water resources and different mapping programs for public institutions.

In 1997, he got a position for four years as Lecturer at the Huelva University, in southwest Spain, and developed a new phase of research on coastal and shallow marine successions in the Miocene-Pliocene Guadalquivir foreland basin.

He returned in 2001 to the Basque Country University in Bilbao, through a Ramon y Cajal Fellow­ship, obtaining a Senior Research position and later, in 2010, a position as Senior Lecturer at the Department of Stratigraphy and Palaeontology. During the last twenty years, he has been involved in a variousf research projects for private and public institutions, including studies on paleokarst, cyclestratigraphy and sedimentology/architecture of the Paleogene and Neogene carbonate platform systems. He has co-lead field trips and classroom courses for the oil industry (Total, Shell and KPO).

Dr. Baceta´s training has been field geology and carbonate sedimentology, with pre- and post-doctoral specialization in applied geology and industry experience on resources exploration.

At present, his main research looks at the Cenozoic reef buildups and ramp system, LBF accumulations and large-scale karstification processes.

Affiliations and Accreditation
PhD Basque Country University (Bilbao)
BSc Basque Country University (Bilbao)

Courses Taught 
N059: Carbonate Systems and Facies Architecture: Exploration and Reservoir Implications (Mallorca & Menorca, Spain)

N143: Advanced Concepts in Carbonate Exploration and Reservoir Characterization (Northern Spain)

Mikel Lopez-Horgue

After a research grant of the Basque Government (1990-94), Mikel joined the local geology industry as an exploration geologist in mineral resources and hydrogeology. He presented his doctoral thesis on stratigraphy and sedimentology of Albian carbonates and siliciclastics in 2000. One year before he was appointed lecturer in geology and resource exploration in the Department of Mine Engineering at the School of Mines at the University of the Basque Country. In 2007, Mikel moved to the Department of Stratigraphy and Palaeontology as lecturer in sedimentary environments and basin analysis. since 2004, he has been a leader in research projects on hydrothermal dolomitization, funded by TOTAL S.A. from 2005 to 2007. In 2006/07, he specialized on Albian ammonites and biostratigraphy at the Natural History Museum of London, gaining a Synthesys grant in 2007. Mikel began teaching for RPS in 2008.

Dr. López-Horgue's main training has been in sedimentary geology and biostratigraphy with industry experience in resource exploration. He currently focuses on the study of carbonate diagenesis and fracture-related hydrothermal dolomitization, and Albian ammonites with his research funded by the University of the Basque Country and the Basque Government from 2009, after open competitive calls. Other interests are in the tectonic control on sedimentation, basin hydrothermalism, palaeoceanography, palaeoecology of marine invertebrates and shallow siliciclastics.

Courses Taught
N143: Advanced Concepts in Carbonate Exploration and Reservoir Characterisation (Northern Spain)

Paul Wright

Paul Wright has worked on carbonates for over 40 years, holding positions at the universities of Bristol and Reading as well as the BG Chair in Applied Sedimentology at Cardiff University for ten years. For over five years from 2007 Paul was principal consultant sedimentologist and group technical authority for carbonates at BG Group. He has worked extensively on carbonate reservoirs in North Africa, offshore India, Kazakhstan and offshore Brazil, as well as in the Paris Basin, Abu Dhabi and West Africa. He has conducted field work widely in UK, Spain, Portugal, Oman and USA.

Paul has written over 140 research papers, and co-authored or edited several books including the main text book in carbonate sedimentology. He has supervised over 20 PhD students, most of whom work in the oil and gas industry. He has served on the editorial boards of several international journals.

He is now director of PW Carbonate Geoscience Ltd, specializing in consulting, training and mentoring in applied carbonate sedimentology. He is an honorary fellow at the National Museum of Wales, Cardiff.

Paul is the 2016 recipient of the Pettijohn medal for outstanding contributions to sedimentology and stratigraphy, awarded by SEPM (Society for Sedimentary Geology), and also recipient of the 2015 AAPG Grover E Murray Distinguished Educator Award.

Courses Taught
N020: Carbonate Depositional Systems:  Reservoir Sedimentology & Diagenesis
N143: Advanced Concepts in Carbonate Exploration and Reservoir Characterization (Northern Spain)
N245: Sedimentology and stratigraphy of Lacustrine Systems: Reservoir and Source Rocks (Utah & Colorado, USA)
N336: Carbonate Reservoir Description Based on Core and Well Data (Nottinghamshire, UK)

CEU: 4.8 Continuing Education Units
PDH: 48 Professional Development Hours
Certificate: Certificate Issued Upon Completion
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