Oil and Gas

Oil and Gas | Unconventional Resources

Geological Reservoir Characteristics of Siliciclastic Unconventional Light Oil Plays, Western Canada Sedimentary Basin (Alberta, Canada)

Course Code: N291
Instructors:  Per Kent PedersenPaul MacKay
Course Outline:  Download
Format and Duration:
5 days


The course presents an overview of siliciclastic unconventional light oil play types, including their different reservoir characteristics, play fairways and depositional environments. Examples from the Western Canada Sedimentary Basin are contrasted through examination of cores and well logs. Topics include porosity, permeability, reservoir architecture and heterogeneity from pore to field scale, fracability, sweet spots, hydrocarbon source and migration and fairway orientations and widths. 


Overall the course was excellent. I would absolutely recommend this course to others.

Duration and Training Method

This is a five-day course, comprising four days of lectures, core and well log workshops, and a one-day field trip to outcrops in the Foothills and Front Ranges of the Rocky Mountains west of Calgary to view some of the units examined in the core workshop.

Course Overview

Participants will learn to:

  1. Characterize tight, light oil play types and apply appropriate analogs.
  2. Evaluate and describe reservoir characteristics.
  3. Assess depositional processes to better predict reservoir heterogeneity from bed to pool scale.
  4. Perform sequence stratigraphic evaluations of unconventional fine-grained successions for correlation and mapping.
  5. Evaluate the different parameters that together form a successful tight, light oil play.
  6. Evaluate the position of light oil plays with hydrocarbon systems to better understand fluids and pressure distribution.
  7. Assess the various risks of light oil plays.
  8. Assess fracture characteristics of reservoir facies and enveloping strata, both for natural and hydraulically induced fractures.
  9. Estimate net pay and reserves for different categories of light oil plays.

Participants will gain an understanding of the diversity and some of the critical factors that influence successful Unconventional Light Oil Plays through presentation and examination of several active plays within the Western Canada Sedimentary Basin.

The lectures provide participants with an overview of the broad range of Unconventional Light Oil plays in three main categories:

  1. “Halo Oil” – light oil plays where the source ≠ the reservoir, and matrix permeability is relatively high (> 0.1 md) compared to the other play type categories. Halo Oil plays represent portions of conventional light oil pools that do not meet traditional petrophysical cutoffs and pay criteria. They may be clastics or carbonates (e.g. Cardium, Viking).
  2. “Tight Oil” – light oil plays where the source ≠ the reservoir, and matrix permeability is low (< 0.1 md).  These plays are analogous to tight gas plays and may be clastics or carbonates (e.g. Bakken (Viewfield), Montney).
  3. “Shale Oil” – light oil plays where the source = the reservoir, matrix permeability is very low, and organic matter content may be high. These plays are analogous to shale gas plays (e.g. Second White Speckled Shale, Duvernay, Muskwa).

The core workshop will include examples of each of the three categories of plays and each will be discussed in terms of: geological setting, location within the hydrocarbon system, trapping mechanisms, depositional environments, facies continuity, reservoir characteristics, porosity and permeability, fluid sensitivity, production characteristics, etc. Core, well logs, and production data will form the basis for discussions of the key parameters that make each of these plays successful.

The core workshop will be complemented with a day in field examining outcrops of several of the stratigraphic units discussed during the core workshop. The outcrops are located in the Foothills and Front Ranges of the Rocky Mountains, a 1-hour drive west of Calgary. These outcrops, located within thrust sheets, allow for examination of lateral reservoir heterogeneity and flow paths, and the relationship between sedimentary facies and fracture characteristics.

Itinerary (subject to revision)

Day 0
Travel to Calgary.

Days 1-2 and 4-5
Classroom lectures and core workshop at the Alberta Energy Resources Conservation Board Core Research Centre in Calgary.
Overnights in Calgary.

Day 3
Field stops to examine outcrop exposures in the Canmore and Kananaskis areas of Alberta.
Overnight in Calgary.

The course will end at 3.30 pm on Day 5. Participants may depart for home that evening or the following morning.

The course is appropriate for all exploration and development geologists, geophysicists, reservoir engineers, reservoir modelers and/or geoscience and engineering managers that are engaged in evaluating or exploiting unconventional siliciclastic reservoirs. The course is primarily designed for people with a basic understanding of unconventional clastic reservoirs, but experienced participants 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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