Oil and Gas

Oil and Gas | Unconventional Resources

Geological Drivers for Tight-Oil and Unconventional Plays in the Powder River Basin and Applications to Other Basins (Wyoming, USA)

Course Code: N463
Instructors:  Lee KrystinikRandi Martinsen
Course Outline:  Download
Format and Duration:
5 days


Business Impact: Application of the learnings of this course will empower multidisciplinary teams to better understand lateral and vertical heterogeneity, synsedimentary and post-burial tectonic deformation as these factors dramatically impact the choice of completion methodology, development plans and reservoir management at the single well and field scale.

Sometimes your engineer can’t just “hit it harder and frack past the problem”. Geoscientists and their engineering colleagues will examine controls on location, thickness, natural fracturing and ultimate reservoir quality of "tight-oil sandstones" and "source rock" resource plays in the Powder River Basin. Concepts presented apply to unconventional plays along the Rockies, into Canada, the Gulf Coast of Texas and Louisiana, West Texas, Latin America, Europe and Asia.

Duration and Training Method

This is a field course in the Powder River Basin (PRB), Wyoming, designed specifically to help geoscientists and engineers understand why their reservoirs perform as they do. The PRB is a highly oil-rich basin with outcrops of producing reservoirs exposed around its margins, making it an excellent laboratory to study hydrocarbon reservoirs. The daily itinerary includes short conceptual lectures and exercises with full days of outcrop work to determine vertical and lateral aspects of reservoirs, including natural fracture networks.

Course Overview

Participants will learn to: 
  1. Ascertain the sedimentary origin of the major tight oil & unconventional resource plays in the Powder River Basin
  2. Understand the scale and reservoir characteristics through a range of enigmatic isolated reservoirs. This entails observation of rapid lateral reservoir changes, different reservoir performance and different completion strategies
  3. Identify and predict reservoir facies & geometries: “fringe” vs. “core” and how this impacts development plans and long-term reservoir management
  4. Establish the impact of synsedimentary tectonics & transgressive erosion on reservoir preservation
  5. Integrate faulting & regional fracture systems into sedimentary reservoir characterization to better predict and avoid parent/child production issues
  6. Build conceptual models for optimal reservoir quality/diagenesis (“Goldilocks” rocks)
  7. Develop and synthesize the above outcomes for application to other basins

Excellent outcrops of all major horizontal drilling target horizons in the Powder River Basin are used as our laboratory. "Tight oil sandstone” reservoirs to be investigated include the Shannon, Sussex, Parkman, Teapot, Turner and Frontier. This trip also addresses the Niobrara and Mowry petroleum systems and how these transgressive, fine-grained “source-rock” resource plays vary regionally in their sedimentology and composition, and their attendant propensity for porosity and fracturing. This allows geologists and engineers to work together in determining sweet spots and avoiding “money disposal” areas.

The itinerary below is pending and subject to change

Day 0: Travel Day

  • Travel Day to Casper, Wyoming, USA
  • Reception and Introductory lecture

Day 1: Casper

  • Overview of the Powder River Basin, the key productive unconventional resource plays, and Niobrara petroleum system: Niobrara, Teapot and Parkman reservoirs and the reservoir engineering issues they pose. 
  • Outcrop Stops: Niobrara Fm. marls, Teapot and Parkman shoreface and deltaic successions, unconformity and valley fill.

Day 2: Casper

  • Lecture on the Shannon and Sussex isolated sandstone bodies, relationships within the Niobrara petroleum system and analogs, and underlying successions.
  • Outcrop stops illustrating Shannon and Sussex sandstone body variability; Frontier, Mowry and Niobrara strata and why this matters in the subsurface for ultimate economics. 

Day 3: Casper

  • Lecture on the Mowry Fm. petroleum system, and Frontier and Mowry formation reservoirs.
  • Outcrop stops on Frontier, Niobrara and Mowry strata These units behave differently from each other as reservoirs and have different drilling and completion issues as demonstrated in the field.

Day 4: Casper to Newcastle

  • Lecture on the eastern Powder River Basin exposures: facies changes and controls.
  • Outcrop stops: Frontier, Niobrara and Mowry strata near Douglas & Redbird. These rocks change a lot around the basin and impact where we should drill and how we should complete the zones of interest.

Day 5: Newcastle

  • Lecture on trend analysis and basinal transport orientations, and subsurface relationships exercise.
  • Outcrop stops: Turner, Mowry, and Niobrara strata and discussion of reservoir complexity and the impact on engineering considerations.
  • Final night dinner in Casper

Day 6: Travel Day

  • Return from Casper, Wyoming.

 The intent of this course is to bring engineers and geoscientists together on excellent rock outcrops that are highly productive in the nearby subsurface. Additionally, to develop a mutual appreciation and common conceptual perspective regarding the impact of depositional systems, synsedimentary tectonics, transgressive erosion and later tectonic deformation/fracturing on their reservoirs. This understanding leads to a pragmatic decision process regarding completion methodology and reservoir management strategies.  This field course is appropriate for those with limited experience who wish to broaden their understanding, and more- experienced participants seeking to integrate more recent geological concepts for identification, analysis and prediction of “tight oil sandstones” and “source rock” resource plays

Lee Krystinik

Dr. Lee F. Krystinik has specialized in using sedimentary and stratigraphic analysis to find oil and gas in clastic reservoirs since he received his Ph.D. in geology from Princeton University. Krystinik has held positions as Manager of Regional Studies at Reservoirs Inc., Manager of Geology at Union Pacific Resources and Global Chief Geologist for ConocoPhillips. He Co-founded and successfully sold Fossil Creek Resources, a privateequity funded start up and is a founding Partner in Equus Alliance, LLC and Equus Energy Partners, LLC, an exploration investment partnerships that apply new technologies in the search for overlooked targets, predominantly shallow, conventional oil targets.

His areas of interest include syn-tectonic sedimentation and other controls on basin-fill architecture, integrated play assessment and cost effective implementation of new concepts and technology. Dr. Krystinik has been an AAPG Distinguished Lecturer in North America and Latin America and he is a past President of both SEPM and AAPG.

Affiliations and Accreditation
PhD Princeton University - Geology
Past President of AAPG and SEPM

Courses Taught
N011: High Resolution Sequence Stratigraphy: Reservoir Applications (Utah, USA)
N027: Reservoir Sedimentology & Stratigraphy of Continental Clastic Systems (Wyoming, USA)
N042: Reservoir Sedimentology & Stratigraphy of Coastal and Shelfal Successions: Deltas, Shorelines and Origins of Isolated Sandstones (NW Colorado, USA)
N244: Clastic Reservoir Prediction Using Advanced Sequence Stratigraphic Interpretation (Wyoming, USA)
N407: Predicting Reservoir and Petroleum Systems in Rifts and Extensional Basins (New Mexico & Colorado, USA)
N451: Practical Oil-Finders Guide to Siliciclastic Sequence Stratigraphy (Wyoming)
N463: Geological Drivers for Tight-Oil and Unconventional Plays in the Powder River Basin and Applications to Other Basins (Wyoming, USA)


Randi Martinsen

Randi is a certified petroleum geologist with 35 years experience (domestic and international) working in industry, consulting and teaching. She started her career with Cities Service Company, Denver, CO.  Subsequently, she became a consultant and has worked for numerous companies including Shell, BP, Cities Service, ARCO, Norsk-Hydro, Gupco, Anadarko and Baker Hughes as well as Nautilus, and has provided expert witness testimony on several occasions. She has also been a Lecturer in Geology and Geophysics at the University of Wyoming for more than 30 years and has taught courses in petroleum geology and engineering, stratigraphy, reservoir characterization and introductory physical geology, conducted research and supervised graduate students. Her research focuses on developing and improving geologic models useful for hydrocarbon exploration and production and she has numerous publications in this area.

Currently, she is transitioning to retiring from UW so as to be able to commit more time to her newly formed company, Hydrocarbon InSight, LLC. She has received several best paper awards, including the AAPG Levorsen Award. She was a member of the National Research Council Panel on the Review of the Oil Recovery Demonstration Program of the Department of Energy,

Affiliations and Accreditation
MSc Northern Arizona University - Geology
BSc S.U.N.Y (Stony Brook) - Earth and Space Science
AAPG President (2014-2015)
AAPG Associate Editor and Treasurer
Board of the Petroleum Technology Transfer Council (PTTC)

Courses Taught
N244: Clastic Reservoir Prediction Using Advanced Sequence Stratigraphic Interpretation (Wyoming, USA)
N316: Geology for Non-Geologists
N451: Practical Oil-Finders Guide to Siliciclastic Sequence Stratigraphy (Wyoming)
N463: Geological Drivers for Tight-Oil and Unconventional Plays in the Powder River Basin and Applications to Other Basins (Wyoming, USA)
N913: Petroleum Geology for Engineers

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.