Oil and Gas

Oil and Gas | Unconventional Resources

From Outcrop to Subsurface: Understanding and Evaluating Shale Resource Plays (Alberta, Canada)

Course Code: N259
Instructors:  Per Kent PedersenPaul MacKay
Course Outline:  Download
Format and Duration:
6 days


Outcrops, cores, well logs, field studies and exercises are used to introduce techniques for identifying, understanding and evaluating fractured shale reservoirs. Appreciable time is spent on outcrops examining the geology of shale, with an emphasis on how shale fabric influences natural fracture systems. The roles of geophysics, petrophysics, geochemistry and reservoir engineering in developing interpretations of shale resources are examined. 


One of the best, if not the best training classes I've been on because of the tremendous instructors and focus on real life applicability. Loved this course and learned a lot.

Duration and Training Method

A six-day field course in the foothills of the Canadian Rockies, Alberta, Canada.  There will be outcrop visits, a half-day core workshop, and classroom lectures. Lectures introduce the techniques employed to understand and evaluate these fine-grained deposits, and exercises reinforce the learnings. The ratio of field to classroom time is approximately 70:30.

Course Overview

Participants will learn to:

  1. Demonstrate the fundamental characteristics of shale geology.
  2. Examine shale depositional processes and the influence of basinal setting on facies distribution.
  3. Demonstrate the application of sequence stratigraphic principles to shale dominated successions in different depositional settings for correlation and mapping.
  4. Examine the lithological variables that distinguish different shale plays.
  5. Analyze shale sections on well logs and in core.
  6. Correlate shale sections on well logs and compare traditional lithostratigraphic vs. sequence stratigraphic based correlations.
  7. Determine the stress regime for a shale section.
  8. Determine fracture intensity from cores.
  9. Determine key factors that contribute to a successful shale resource play.

Participants will learn to use outcrop observations and subsurface data to identify and evaluate shale reservoirs. Two broad themes will be developed:

  1. The geology of shales: their sedimentology, stratigraphy, mineralogy and geochemistry as determined from outcrop, core and well log data. Exercises will get participants comfortable with analyzing and correlating shale sections on well logs.
  2. Fracturing in shales: the mechanics of failure, how rocks break and how to recognize fractured intervals in the subsurface. Discussions will focus on the natural fracture systems as well as the techniques that can be used to improve access to the reservoirs and improve the communication of the reservoir to the well bore.

Additional topics that will be covered include quantifying fracture intensity, the use of core in understanding the reservoir system and shale reservoir engineering. Other data sets that may aid in fracture detection will be discussed (such as potential field data). Examples of integrated interpretations of producing fractured shale reservoirs will be presented.

The principle outcrops to be studied are in the hills near Kananaskis and along the Highwood River and Jura Creek south and west of Calgary. The excellent shale outcrops are representative of resource plays that are under active exploration in the Western Canadian Sedimentary Basin and are relevant to Bakken, Niobrara and other resource plays elsewhere in North America.


Day 1

-Introduction to Shale Reservoirs
-What is a Fracture

Core workshop at AER
-Jurassic Nikanassin fractured tight gas sandstones
-Devonian-Mississippian Bakken/Exshaw/Banff shales
-Triassic Montney siltstones
-Turonian Second White Specks (Greenhorn) shales
Drive to and overnight in Kananaskis

Day 2

-Alberta Plays -Bakken/Exshaw
-Seismic Anisotropy

-Goat Creek Exshaw
-Canmore off-leash Dog Park (optional)
Overnight in Kananaskis

Day 3

-Shale Facies
-Scan Line analysis

-Triassic at Hood Creek


Day 4

-Highwood River
-Fish Scales
-2WS to Cardium
-2WS duplex
Niobrara to Chungo

Day 5

-Shale Sequence Stratigraphy and Exercise

-Ghost Dam
-Niobrara facies
-Belly River fracture

Day 6

-Second White Specks

-Cardium at Horseshoe dam

Day 7

Depart for home

The course is appropriate for all geoscientists, petrophysicists and engineers who are engaged in the evaluation and development of shale resources. It is primarily designed for participants who are new to working resource plays, but experienced staff should also benefit from this course.

Per Kent Pedersen

Dr. Per Kent Pedersen, P.Geol., has +10 years of diverse experience in academia, government and industry.  He began his career as a Postdoctoral Fellow at Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada, working on several industry and government funded research projects integrating outcrop, core and well log data of thick shale and sandstone strata in Western Canada from southern Alberta to Yukon and the Northwest Territories.  Following a year as Assistant Professor at Brandon University, Manitoba, he took up a position as Senior Petroleum Research Geologist with the Petroleum Geology Branch, Saskatchewan Geological Survey, where his research focused on the Cretaceous hydrocarbon potential in Saskatchewan, particularly on the shallow gas system.

In 2005 Per joined Apache Canada Ltd as an Exploration Geologist, where he was part of the New Venture Unit exploring mainly for new large unconventional type oil and gas accumulations within the Western Canada Sedimentary Basin.  He recommended and drilled close to 30 wildcat exploration wells, with discovery of potentially a new large gas pool within the foothills of southern Alberta.  Per also provide technical support for acquisition and farm-in property evaluations, and oversaw a drilling program of more than 600 shallow gas wells within the Hatton Pool, SW Saskatchewan.  He joined in 2007 Kereco Energy Ltd. as a Senior Exploration Geologist identifying conventional and unconventional drilling targets in Northeastern British Columbia within Cretaceous, Jurassic, Triassic, Mississippian and Devonian sandstones, shale, and carbonates.  Targets also include natural fractured reservoirs within shallow to deep seated thrust sheets, complemented by field work to map structures and areas of more intense fracturing.

Per joined in 2008, the Department of Geoscience, University of Calgary as Associate Professor, where his research primarily focuses on geological reservoir characterization of unconventional oil and gas systems as part of several industry funded research consortias. He also runs his own consulting company providing technical support for reservoir characterization and reserve estimation, and teaches field seminars for various petroleum companies and geological societies.

Affiliations and Accreditation
PhD Department of Earth Sciences ,University of Aarhus Denmark - Geology

Courses Taught
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)
N382: Recognition of Mudstone Depositional Processes and Depositional Settings: Implications for Reservation Heterogeneity and Play Extent

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



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PDH: 48 Professional Development Hours
Certificate: Certificate Issued Upon Completion
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