Oil and Gas

Oil and Gas | Structure and Tectonics

Compressional Structural Styles: Models for Exploration and Production (Alberta, Canada)

Course Code: N053
Instructors:  Malcolm LambPaul MacKay
Course Outline:  Download
Format and Duration:
5 days


The course is a combined lecture and field-based investigation of thrust and fold structures in compressional belts, examining the changes in structural geometries in different lithologies, at different burial depths and along strike. Comparisons with subsurface examples and seismic models of exposed structures are made throughout the course.


This was the best course I have even been on to date. Paul and Malcom are very knowledgeable and welcome questions and group discussion. All examples in the field were incredible and very applicable. Highly recommend!

Duration and Training Method

A five-day course comprising fieldwork in the Canadian Rockies and Foothills of Southern Alberta (70%) and classroom sessions with lectures, data examples and exercises.

Course Overview

Participants will learn to:

  1. Assess structural styles in compressional belts and their variability in 3D.
  2. Appraise structural geology of imperfectly imaged subsurface structures and problems associated with multiple detachment levels.
  3. Formulate fault and fold geometries in time, depth and anisotropic depth migrated seismic sections.
  4. Characterise fracture systems in contractional systems.
  5. Integrate surface outcrop exposures into subsurface interpretation to aid in prospect definition.

Focus will be on the integration of geology and geophysics to define and predict the 3D geometry of structural traps.

  1. Introduction to stratigraphy and tectonic framework of the Canadian Rockies
  2. Structural styles in compressional belts and their variability in 3D
  3. Tying surface geology to imperfectly imaged subsurface structures and problems associated with multiple detachment levels
  4. Interpreting fault and fold geometries in time, depth and anisotropic depth migrated seismic sections
  5. Case studies from the subsurface

The itinerary below is pending and subject to change

Day 0
Participants travel to Calgary. Free Night.

Day 1
The day starts with a short introduction and safety brief before leaving for the field.   Examining foothills deformation in Bragg Creek Provincial Park; thrust sheets of the Moose Dome structure; fracture development and hangingwall anticline of the Dyson Mtn Thrust; and thrust linkages and lateral ramps of the Fullerton Tear.
Fieldwork includes observing well-exposed folds and fracture systems along Canyon Creek in the McConnell thrust sheet.

Day 2
Travelling from Canmore to Lake Louise to complete our TransCanada transect of classic structures and then on into British Columbia, to examine the outcrops in Yoho National Park, with specific examples of how lithotectonic units of different strengths and thicknesses effect fold and fault geometries.

Day 3
Travelling from Canmore to Blairmore, examining classic compressional structures and lateral variations in several Front Range thrust sheets (McConnell, Exshaw, Lac des Arcs, Rundle, Lewis) from the Bow River Valley (Highways 1 and 1A) and to the south along the Kananaskis Valley (Highway 40). A short hike around fault-related folds west of Exshaw also provides good views of structural variations along strike.
Examining how thrust faults and associated folds die out along strike and are linked to other thrusts. The McConnell, Misty, Rundle and Sulphur Mountain thrusts die out southward as displacement on the Livingstone, Coleman and Lewis thrusts increases. Fold geometries and their fracture distributions are also examined.

Day 4
In the Crowsnest Pass area examining duplexes and a klippe of the Lewis Thrust sheet, complex 3D fold-fault geometries and fracture distributions.
We build a cross-section based on the Turtle Mountain structure, looking at the Fernie Detachment along the Carbondale, then move up to Adanac and look at the southern plunge. Continue onto Drum Creek and hike across the fold, look at the Frank slide and describe the thrust and then move up to Grassy mountain and look at the pre-shortening of the Mesozoic section.

Day 5
Travelling from Blairmore to Calgary examining Foothills and Triangle Zone structures and changes in fold-fault geometries along the way.
Review and Summary.

Day 6
Participants are free to depart Calgary.

Exploration and development geologists and geophysicists concerned with seismic imaging, exploration and exploitation of fold and thrust belts, and reservoir engineers working on compressional tectonics within integrated teams.

Malcolm Lamb

Dr. Lamb is currently a consultant for companies working in Canada and internationally on a variety of projects focussing on structural geology and evaluation of fractured reservoirs. Past projects have included assessment of large resource plays in northern B.C. and Alberta, well evaluations of wildcat targets in Argentina, evaluation of basement reservoir potential in Colombia, and the evaluation and economic viability of a structurally complex fractured unconventional reservoir in Canada. Malcolm also leads various field courses in the Rocky Mountains and Foothills of Alberta and British Columbia.

Malcolm graduated from the University of Alberta with a BSc in geology. Upon graduation, Malcolm joined Schlumberger where he worked at various technical roles from field logging engineer to principle reservoir geoscientist. During his tenure at Schlumberger, part of Malcolm’s work brought him back to an academic setting where he enrolled in a PhD program part time in structural Geology at the University of Calgary, focussing on structural influences on fracture development. After 20 years with Schlumberger, Malcolm joined Shale Petroleum in 2013 as Geoscience Manager and senior consultant where he directed an exploration program focussing on unconventional reservoirs in structurally complex regions.

Research interests include petroleum system analysis, effects of mechanical anisotropy on the development of structures, and data analytics in exploration. The majority of Malcolm’s current work is in structurally complex systems directed towards the extraction of hydrocarbons.

Affiliations and Accreditation
PhD University of Calgary - Structural Geology

BSc University of Alberta - Geology

Courses Taught
N053: Compressional Structural Styles: Models for Exploration and Production (Alberta, Canada)

Paul MacKay

Dr. Paul A. MacKay, P. Geol., P. Geoph., has +25 years of experience in the petroleum industry as a geologist and geophysicist. He began his career at Amoco Canada in 1980 and was involved with conventional operations, development and exploration in central Alberta and was on a one-year temporary assignment to Amoco International working on Australia, Papua New Guinea.

Following an educational leave to obtain his doctorate, Paul served as the structural geology expert at Amoco Canada before joining Morrison Petroleums Ltd. in 1993 to establish their southern Foothills position, including acquisition of gas processing facilities, gas gathering systems and production and evaluation of exploration potential. He introduced advanced geophysical techniques including the use of 3-D seismic data in mountainous terrains, offset VSP, integrated ?eld geology and seismic mapping, and aided in technical evaluation of international opportunities. At Northstar Energy from 1997 to 1999, Paul was Exploration manager (Foothills), responsible for all areas of Northstar’s business within the Foothills area of western Canada.  In 1999, Paul started his own consulting ?rm working on a variety of structural styles in Canada, Wyoming, Montana, Nevada, North Sea, on-shore England, Central Africa, the Zagros Mountain, and portions of South America and the Caribbean. 

He is currently one of the principals of Shale Petroleum, a private E&P resource company focused on unconventional oil prospects in western Canada and the United States.  He is also an adjunct professor at the University of Calgary and current president of the Canadian Society of Petroleum Geologists.

Affiliations and Accreditation
PhD University of Calgary- Geology and Geophysics- Structural Geology

Courses Taught
N053: Compressional Structural Styles: Models for Exploration & Production (Alberta, Canada)
N109: Fracture-Enhanced Reservoirs: Field Seminar (Wyoming, USA)
N259: From Outcrop to Subsurface: Understanding and Evaluating Shale Resource Plays (Alberta, Canada)
N291: Geological Reservoir Characteristics of Siliciclastic Unconventional Light Oil Plays, Western Canada Sedimentary
Basin (Alberta, Canada)
N435: The Analysis of Fractured Reservoirs (Wyoming, USA)
N436: Big Data, Complexity and Analytics Applied to Fractured Reservoirs – What We Can Learn From Diverse Data Sets



CEU: 4 Continuing Education Units
PDH: 40 Professional Development Hours
Certificate: Certificate Issued Upon Completion
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We issue a Certificate of Attendance which verifies the number of training hours attended. Our courses are generally accepted by most professional licensing boards/associations towards continuing education credits. Please check with your licensing board to determine if the courses and certificate of attendance meet their specific criteria.