Oil and Gas

Oil and Gas | Structure and Tectonics

Extensional Tectonics and Normal Fault Patterns (Utah, USA)

Course Code: N041
Instructors:  Bruce Trudgill
Course Outline:  Download
Format and Duration
5 days


Business impact: Incorrect mapping of linked fault systems is common across the petroleum industry. In a workstation environment, faults are often only interpreted as simple sticks on vertical seismic profiles, with scant regard for their geometry and complexity in 3D. This course aims to improve understanding of linkage within normal fault systems through analysis of world-class examples of relay and breached relay ramps. Participants can then integrate these field-based models into their subsurface interpretations, thereby increasing their chances for exploration success and decreasing chances of unpleasant surprises during development drilling.

This course is a field, lecture and practical based investigation of extensional tectonics and normal fault patterns in the northern Paradox Basin, SE Utah, aimed at both geoscientists and engineers. Participants examine the superbly exposed, salt-detached, fault and relay ramp structures of the northern Paradox Basin and the Moab Fault system. Comparisons with subsurface analogues will be made throughout the course, and implications for trap development and reservoir compartmentalization discussed.


Excellent outcrops and training materials. I'll definitely recommend the course to my work associates.

Duration and Training Method

This is a field course, supported by classroom sessions in a 70:30 ratio. Classroom sessions comprise a mixture of presentations, practicals using seismic data and analysis of field examples. Attendees are encouraged to bring their own data for discussion.

Course Overview

Participants will learn to:

  1. Assess the stratigraphy and principal structural controls on the Paradox Basin, SE Utah.
  2. Appraise the role of salt tectonics on the development of major fault systems in the region.
  3. Evaluate the mechanisms of faulting, fault propagation, and the controls on the size, distribution, and population of normal faults.
  4. Analyze, through superbly exposed field examples the geometry and evolution of relay ramps and breached relay ramps.
  5. Propose sub-seismic fault populations and understand the impact of near-fault deformation on reservoir compartmentalization and fault seal in high porosity sandstone reservoirs.
  6. Scale-up evolutionary models of normal fault growth and basin filling mechanisms to large-scale rift basins.
  7. Apply field-based models to improve seismic interpretation of linked faults systems in the subsurface and develop methodologies for defining structural traps.

The focus of the course will be on the structural development of extensional basins and controls on stratigraphic sequences that develop in rifts. We will examine the causes of crustal extension and the mechanisms, geometries, scale and growth of normal faults. Rift basin models and the effects of fault evolution on depocentre and stratigraphic development are addressed in detail. Instruction at outcrop, with field and practical exercises complements the theoretical background presented in classroom lectures. 

Below is a provisional course itinerary, which may vary depending on prevailing weather conditions.

Day 0
Participants arrive in Grand Junction

Day 1
Drive from Grand Junction to Moab with overview stops on route (Dead Horse Point - Overview of Canyonlands stratigraphy and the seismic scale of basin structures).

Day 2
Morning field excursion – examination of the structure of the Spanish Valley-Moab area. Afternoon lectures - introduction to course lectures and practicals, mechanisms of faulting, relay ramp development and evolution rift basin models, geometry of extensional faults, seismic interpretation of normal faults, Fault interpretation and correlation exercises.

Day 3
Fieldwork all day – examination of the structure of the Moab Fault zone using transects of the fault to study fault zone geometry, relay ramp and breached relay ramp geometries, associated structures and variation in fault rocks. Discussion of fault seal attributes of the Moab fault zone, fluid flow across the fault.

Day 4
An early start allows a full day in the Canyonlands Grabens system, Canyonlands National Park for a detailed analysis of relay ramps, breached relay ramps, and the control of fault growth on drainage patterns and sedimentation.

Day 5
A late morning start after the long Canyonlands day with the rest of the day spent on a field excursion to Arches National Park to study small scale deformation in sandstone reservoirs, reservoir compartmentalisation, hanging wall rollover geometries, and relay ramp deformation. Drive from Moab to Grand Junction and end of course dinner.

Day 6

This multi-disciplinary course is designed for: (i) exploration and development geologists and geophysicists concerned with the exploration and exploitation of clastic reservoirs in extensional settings (ii) reservoir and production engineers seeking more information about compartmentalization and fluid-flow in relay ramp settings and (iii) asset managers responsible for exploitation of clastic reservoirs in rift basins world-wide.

Bruce Trudgill

Bruce Trudgill has industry experience with Amerada Hess UK Ltd., and has worked on a number of industry funded research projects, both at Imperial College (1992-1994), and the University of Colorado at Boulder (1994-2000). His research interests cover the broad theme of structural controls on depositional systems, and he has published papers on salt tectonics, rift systems and inversion tectonics. His research combines interpreting 3D seismic data with field studies, particularly in the Paradox Basin in SE Utah. He returned to Colorado from teaching at Imperial College (2000-2003), and is currently an Associate Professor at the Colorado School of Mines in Golden. He has served as an AAPG Associate Editor (2000-2005) and is co-editor of the AAPG Bulletin Special Issue on the Structure and Stratigraphy of Rift Systems (June, 2002).

Affiliations and Accreditation
PhD Imperial College, London - Basin Inversion
BSc University of Wales, Aberystwyth - Geology
AAPG Associate Editor (2000-2005)
AAPG Bulletin Co editor - Special Issue “Structure and Stratigraphy of Rift Systems” (June 2002)

Courses Taught
N041: Extensional Tectonics & Normal Fault Patterns (Utah, USA)
N163: Salt Evolution and Coeval Sedimentation in the Paradox Basin (Utah, USA)


CEU: 4 Continuing Education Units
PDH: 40 Professional Development Hours
Certificate: Certificate Issued Upon Completion
RPS is accredited by the International Association for Continuing Education and Training (IACET) and is authorized to issue the IACET CEU. We comply with the ANSI/IACET Standard, which is recognised internationally as a standard of excellence in instructional practices.
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.