Oil and Gas

Oil and Gas | Basin Analysis

Gulf of Mexico Petroleum Systems

Course Code: N043
Course Outline:  Download
Format and Duration
5 days


Leading experts present an overview of petroleum systems in the Gulf of Mexico (GOM). The course provides an understanding of the hydrocarbon source, reservoir and trapping styles with particular emphasis on the deepwater settings in the northern GOM. Attendees will learn methods and principles to optimize their exploration and exploitation efforts in the basin.  


Abundant course material. Broad coverage. Very good course design.

Duration and Training Method

A five-day classroom course comprising lectures, exercises and case studies.

Course Overview

Participants will learn to:

  1. Analyze the tectonic history, regional stratigraphic framework, structural styles, depositional systems and physiography of the Gulf of Mexico (GOM).
  2. Apply the principles of salt-related deformation to petroleum exploration and production in the GOM.
  3. Contrast supra-salt and sub-salt exploration targets.
  4. Demonstrate how depositional environments, texture and compaction can control reservoir quality in the offshore northern GOM.
  5. Use regional stratigraphic markers to build exploration frameworks and identify reservoir play fairways.
  6. Use petroleum geochemistry data and basin modeling techniques to assess the roles of source rock richness/types, maturity, migration and reservoir processes on oil quality.
  7. Determine the risks of petroleum charge access/volume in the Gulf of Mexico.
  8. Critique the origin, significance and methods of predicting geopressure in the Gulf of Mexico.
  9. Apply seismic geomorphology concepts to better understand the processes, sources and sinks for deepwater sedimentary deposits.

The course covers the structural setting and tectonic history of the basin; its stratigraphic infill; the nature and distribution of the principal hydrocarbon source rocks, source rock maturation history and impact on fluid types/quality; the main depositional systems and the active structural processes that shape and control the sediments. A section on seismic imaging provides insight to the range and limitation of the 3D time and depth datasets that significantly contribute to our understanding of the subsurface.

Day 1

  • Structural Architecture of the Gulf of Mexico (Mark Rowan): Overview of the dominant structural trends and styles of the basin and their impact on the petroleum systems. Topics will be addressed from the bottom up: crustal architecture of the conjugate passive margins and consequent salt deposition; gravity-driven deformation and diapirism at the autochthonous salt level; and canopy formation and associated shallow deformation.

Day 2

  • Depositional Evolution of the Gulf of Mexico (John Snedden): Tectonostratigraphic framework (Triassic to Present). Deep basin seismic strike correlation exercise, part I.

Day 3

  • Reservoir Geology (John Snedden): Exploration Play history, onshore to offshore. Key GOM reservoir depositional processes and reservoir characteristics. Deep basin seismic strike correlation exercise, part II (deepwater fans).

Day 4

  • Petroleum Geochemistry of the Greater Gulf of Mexico Petroleum Systems - Principles and Practice (Adry Bissada): Age and nature of source intervals, maturity and charge, seeps, oil types and biodegradation.

Day 5

  • Depositional Systems and Reservoirs, Southern Gulf of Mexico (Lesli Wood): Comparison of petroleum systems in the Mexico-portion of the Gulf of Mexico with those in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico along the eastern Mexico margin.

  • Geopressure (Niven Shumaker): Introduction to the development and prediction of overpressure in the Gulf of Mexico petroleum system.

Geologists, geophysicists and engineers who are seeking an overview of the northern Gulf of Mexico for exploration or exploitation. The course will especially benefit those who are unfamiliar with or have recently begun working in the GOM.

Adry Bissada

He joined Texaco in 1969; named Supervisor of Geologic Research in 1979, and Manager - Geochemical Research in 1984. In 1995 he moved with his research team to the Houston Advanced Research Centre as Director of the Geochemistry Unit. In 1999 he moved his lab and staff to the University of Houston to establish and direct the “Petroleum Systems & Geochemistry Program”.

During his 49-year professional career, Dr. Bissada has contributed to geochemistry and petroleum systems analysis in many ways (organic/clay interactions; hydrocarbon generation/migration in sedimentary basins; geologic and geochemical controls on source rock development; methods for seismic identification of potential source systems; integration of geology and geochemistry into basin modeling and exploration risk analysis; geochemical inversion; origin and migration of natural gas; Unconventional oil & gas resources - Oil Shale; Extra-heavy Oil; Gas & liquids-rich Shale). Lectured and consulted extensively on Applied Geochemistry in the USA, Canada, Mexico, Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, UK, Germany, Poland, Switzerland, Spain, Egypt, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Iran, the Philippines, and Indonesia. He was founder and co-founder of two geosciences technology companies: (i) ONTEX Technology Development, Inc., focusing on development of geochemical analytical instrumentation (HPLC systems for crude oil analysis) and geochemical modelling software (SimGAME – Simulated petroleum Generation, Accumulation, Migration, and Entrapment within a risk analysis framework).; and (ii) In Situ Isotope Services, Inc., focusing on development and deployment of the first-ever mobile GC-C-IRMS system for in situ compound-specific isotope ratio mass spectrometry.

Affiliations and Accreditation
PhD University of Houston - Geology and Chemistry
MSc University of Houston - Geology and Geophysics
BSc University of Houston - Geology and Chemistry

Courses Taught 
N043: Gulf of Mexico Petroleum Systems


Peter Flemings

Dr. Peter B. Flemings is a professor and holder of the Jackson Chair in Geosystems with the Department of Geological Sciences at the University of Texas, Austin.  Prior to joining U.T., Peter held positions at Penn State, MIT, and Columbia University. Peter has studied fluid flow and the analysis of geopressure for over 25 years.

Peter has led a research consortium, GeoFluids, for more than 15 years. He works closely with industry and academic colleagues to shed new insight into problems of overpressure and basinal fluid flow. Many of his past graduate students now play important roles in the analysis of pore pressure and stress in the energy industry. Peter focusses on the study of pressure and stress in two- and three-dimensional geological systems.

Peter has consulted internationally, and he served as an advisor to the Secretary of Energy’s well-integrity team during the BP Macondo well failure. He has published more than 85 papers.

Affiliations and Accreditation
PhD Cornell University
MSc Cornell University - Geology
BSc Dartmouth College - Geology

Courses Taught
N249: Advanced Pore Pressure Prediction Workshop:  Concepts, Mechanisms and Workflows



Andy Pulham

Dr. Andy Pulham has more than 35 years of industrial and academic experience. Since early 2005 Andy has been constructing his own consulting and training company and alliances. He has consulted in South America, USA, Europe and Africa.

After graduating, Andy spent 12 years with BP Exploration as a Petroleum Sedimentologist and for BP worked in NW Europe, North America and South America. Highlights in Andy’s industrial career have been regional studies in the Jurassic of the North Sea and the Cenozoic of the deepwater Gulf of Mexico and the appraisal of the Cusiana Field in Colombia. From 1995-2001 Andy was Principal Investigator for Reservoir Geology at the Energy and Minerals Applied Research Center in the Department of Geological Sciences at the University of Colorado. While in Colorado, Andy conducted research into the production characteristics of marginal marine siliciclastic oil and gas reservoirs and alluvial architecture in the Big Horn Basin of Wyoming. Subsurface projects were drawn from the Americas, Europe and Papua New Guinea. In 2001 Andy gained an appointment as the Canada Research Chair in Petroleum Geosciences in the Department of Earth Sciences, Memorial University of Newfoundland and taught undergraduate and graduate petroleum geology and sedimentology and advised graduate students in subsurface reservoir, seismic stratigraphy and outcrop sedimentology projects. Andy left academia in 2003 and joined Nautilus USA as VP of Geoscience and acted as the senior technical liaison and technical manager for the Geoscience Training Alliance in North America.

Andy’s primary interests are clastic sedimentology and stratigraphy. Andy’s portfolio of geoscience training classes now number eleven schools and include deepwater clastics, marginal marine and deltas, play fairway analysis and exploration prospecting and petroleum systems.

Affiliations and Accreditation
PhD University College of Wales, Swansea - Geology
BSc University of Liverpool, England - Physical Geography and Geology
AAPG - Member
SEPM - Member
IAS - Member
RMAG - Member

Courses Taught
N087: Play Fairway Analysis & Exploration Prospecting
N009: Sedimentology, Stratigraphy & Reservoir Geology of Deepwater Clastic Systems (County Clare, Ireland)
N011: High Resolution Sequence Stratigraphy: Reservoir Applications (Utah, USA)
N042: Reservoir Sedimentology & Stratigraphy of Coastal and Shelfal Successions: Deltas, Shorelines and Origins of Isolated Sandstones (NW Colorado, USA)
N115: High Resolution Sequence Stratigraphy: Application to Deltaic Systems and Reservoirs  (County Clare Ireland)


Mark Rowan

Mark  has worked in or with industry for over 40 years as an exploration geologist with Sohio (1982-1985); as a consultant with GeoLogic Systems (1985-1989) and Alastair Beach Assoc. in Scotland (1989-1992); as a research professor at the University of Colorado (1992-1998); and finally as President of Rowan Consulting in Boulder since 1998.

Mark focuses on salt tectonics through a combination of consulting projects in salt basins worldwide, teaching for RPS Training (formerly Nautilus) and the industry, and conducting field work in salt basins with colleagues from the several universities. He has over 125 published papers and about 260 published abstracts. He is the recipient of the GCSSEPM Doris M. Curtis Medal and the AAPG Robert J. Berg Outstanding Research Award.

Affiliations and Accreditation
PhD University of Colorado at Boulder - Structural Geology
MS Berkeley College - Geology
BA Caltech - Biology
AAPG Distinguished Lecturer (2005-2006)
AAPG International Distinguished Instructor (2009-2010)

Courses Taught
N043:  Gulf of Mexico Petroleum Systems
N071:  Workshop in Geological Seismic Interpretation: Salt Tectonics
N149:  Practical Salt Tectonics
N232:  Salt Tectonics: Global Styles, Spanish Outcrops (Basque-Cantabrian Pyrenees, Spain)

Niven Shumaker

Niven Shumaker worked in the Geoscience Technology Group where he supported global drilling operations and the company’s exploration portfolio. He has worked projects in the Black Sea, Middle East, North Sea, West Africa, China, Mediterranean, Gulf of Mexico and onshore basins in the US as a prospector, development geoscientist, and in well services. He actively contributes talks and papers in technical societies such as AAPG, SEG, GSH, and has been an invited speaker at Colorado School of Mines and Baylor University. Niven is also an admissions counsellor at the Jones School of Business and is a team lead in Noble’s geoscience campus recruiting program.

Affiliations and Accreditation
MBA Rice University
MS  Virginia Tech - Geophysics
BS UC Santa Barbara - Geophysics

Courses Taught 
N013: Overpressure Prediction in Petroleum Systems & Geopressure Prediction
N043: Gulf of Mexico Petroleum Systems
N249: Advanced Pore Pressure Prediction Workshop:  Concepts, Mechanisms and Workflows
N840: The Fundamentals of Creativity and Innovation with Applications to E&P Organizations

John Snedden


John W. Snedden is a Senior Research Scientist at Institute for Geophysics, The University of Texas at Austin. He is director of the Gulf Basin Depositional Synthesis project, a consortium dedicated to research on the depositional history of the Gulf of Mexico. Prior to taking his current position, he worked in the oil industry for 25 years, exploring basins around the world. He has taught more 50 industry short courses on the Gulf of Mexico, sequence stratigraphy, and reservoir connectivity. His publications have been cited more 1400 times (Google Scholar). He has been recognized by awards from the American Association of Petroleum Geologists, SEPM (Society of Sedimentary Geology), and the Gulf Coast Association of Geological Societies. John has published over 35 scientific papers; he is the first author on 25 of these. John has history of leadership in technical societies such as SEPM and the Gulf-Coast Section of SEPM. John has also served as technical chair of several large AAPG conventions. He is lead author of the book, The Gulf of Mexico Sedimentary Basin: Depositional Evolution and Petroleum Applications, Cambridge University Press, November 2019. (doi:10.1017/9781108292795.)

In 2021, John was awarded the Doris Malkin Curtis Medal by the Gulf Coast Section of SEPM, citing his numerous contributions to the understanding the depositional systems of the Gulf of Mexico superbasin.

Affiliations and Accreditation
PhD Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, LA
MS Texas A&M University, College Station, TX
BA  Trinity University, San Antonio, TX

Courses Taught
N043: Gulf Of Mexico Petroleum Systems
N342: Compartmentalization and Connectivity in Sandstone Reservoirs
N343: Depositional Evolution of the Gulf of Mexico Sedimentary Basin
N349: Practical Methods for Sequence Stratigraphic Prediction

Lesli Wood

My technical expertise is in clastic sedimentology, sequence stratigraphy, and seismic geomorphology. I specialize in the study of land margins and the processes, deposits, and fluid systems that characterize them. This interest extends to systems on other planets, as well as on Earth. I have extensive experience in physical modeling of clastic processes and a strong interest in predictive models of complex geomorphic response to extrinsic and intrinsic changes.

In addition, I have research interests in gas hydrates, shale tectonics, and the biotic and fluid systems of deep-ocean mud volcanoes. My industry experience includes integrated study of petroleum systems, exploration prospect development and operations, and regional hydrocarbon prospect evaluation. I am well versed in the integration of biostratigraphic, oxygen isotopic, geochemical, seismic, and well log and production data for subregional and regional sequence stratigraphic and basin analysis.

Affiliations and Accreditation
PhD Colorado State University - Earth Resources
MS University of Arkansas - Geology
BS Arkansas Tech University - Geology

Courses Taught
N043: Gulf of Mexico Petroleum Systems
N072: Workshop in Geological Seismic Interpretation: Deep Marine Systems
N292:  Deepwater Depositional System Stratigraphy for Exploration and Development (Arkansas, USA)

CEU: 4 Continuing Education Units
PDH: 40 Professional Development Hours
Certificate: Certificate Issued Upon Completion
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