Oil and Gas

Oil and Gas | Clastics

Introduction to Clastic Depositional Systems: a Petroleum Perspective

Course Code: N155
Course Outline:  Download
Format and Duration
5 days


This course examines and differentiates the main clastic depositional systems in a pragmatic way from a petroleum perspective. Exploration, basin-scale aspects of the depositional systems are addressed, and the key development and reservoir scale issues are reviewed in this context. Subsurface expression of the systems is reviewed, using seismic, well log and core data. The overall aims of the course are to provide a basic overview of clastic depositional systems and an awareness of current trends in subsurface analysis.


I have not studied Clastics since I was an undergraduate. This provided a much needed refresher and introduced lots of recent developments in the science. I appreciated the thorough referencing of course material enabling further reading back in the office.

Duration and Training Method

A classroom course (with a core workshop session where facilities allow) comprising lectures and practical exercises using a variety of data types.

Course Overview

Participants will learn to:

  1. Apply seismic, well log and core data to characterise sandstone reservoirs in a range of depositional systems that are commonly encountered in hydrocarbon exploration and development.
  2. Apply appropriate correlation strategies to the deposits of different depositional systems.
  3. Interpret the deposits of alluvial depositional systems in terms of their sandstone body characteristics, dimensions and architecture, and understand the importance of palaeosols in subsurface analysis.
  4. Differentiate the deposits of wave- and tidal-processes in shoreline-shelf depositional systems and be able to predict reservoir presence and understand reservoir heterogeneities in the sandstone bodies.
  5. Interpret the deposits of deltaic depositional systems, appreciate the differences between shelf- and shelf-edge deltas and the importance of incised valleys in the stratigraphy of deltaic deposits.
  6. Analyse the deposits of deepwater depositional systems with particular emphasis on correlation strategy and the seismic expression of deepwater elements.
  7. Use sequence stratigraphy in the interpretation and prediction of different depositional systems.

The principal clastic depositional systems that form commercial prospects, fluvial, aeolian, shoreline, deltaic, and deepwater, will be reviewed. Each system will be studied independently from basic principles through to specific hydrocarbon issues, and linkages between systems will be emphasized. Evidence from modern depositional settings, surface exposures and subsurface data will be used to develop an in-depth introduction to the petroleum potential of the major clastic depositional systems. Strategies for the use of these data sets in characterising and correlating the deposits of different depositional systems emerge from the discussions.

In the SE Asia-based version of this course, exercises and discussions will draw on exploration and production aspects relevant to this region. Concepts and applications will include examples of sedimentary basins, petroleum systems and hydrocarbon accumulations from SE Asia.

1. Introduction

  • Why sedimentology is important
  • Introduction to sedimentary basins

2. Fluvial/Alluvial Depositional Systems

  • What are fluvial systems
  • Process and bedforms
  • Alluvial fans
  • Distributary fluvial systems and their deposits
  • Subsurface characterisation of fluvial deposits
  • Correlation strategies in fluvial deposits
  • Stratigraphic architecture of fluvial
  • Reservoir aspects
  • Exercises on architecture, sand body connectivity and correlation of alluvial deposits

3. Aeolian

  • What are aeolian systems
  • Types of aeolian system
  • Processes and bedforms in aeolian systems
  • Subsurface characterisation
  • Correlation strategies
  • Stratigraphic architecture
  • Reservoir aspects

4. Shallow Marine/Paralic Depositional Systems

  • What are shallow marine/paralic systems
  • Progradational versus transgressive systems
  • Wave dominated shorelines
  • Tide dominated shorelines
  • Fluvial dominated shorelines
  • Sequence stratigraphy
  • Reservoir aspects
  • Well log exercises in the correlation of parasequences
  • Seismic based exercise on shelf edge stratigraphy - understanding clinoforms

5. Deep Marine Systems

  • Deepwater settings
  • Deepwater processes
  • Basic deepwater deposits
  • Debrites, linked debrites and hybrid beds
  • Sequence stratigraphy of deepwater systems
  • Deepwater architectural elements
  • Mass transport complexes
  • Slope channel and canyon complexes
  • Unconfined elements
  • Facies models for unconfined systems
  • Confined systems
  • Seismic based exercise on sequence stratigraphy, seismic facies and deepwater elements.

A core workshop session examining a range of depositional systems will be included where facilities are available.

The course is designed for geosceintists seeking an up-to-date introduction or review of clastic depositional systems from a petroleum perspective. It is particularly appropriate for early career geoscientists wishing to gain a broad appreciation of the potential of clastic depositional systems and their analysis in the subsurface.

Adrian Hartley

Professor Hartley then undertook postdoctoral positions in sedimentology and stratigraphy in the Universities of Birmingham and Cardiff before joining the University of Aberdeen as the Mobil Lecturer in Production Geoscience in 1991.

Since then he has been based at Aberdeen where his research is focused on the sedimentology and stratigraphy of clastic sedimentary strata. A particular research focus is applying sedimentological and stratigraphic principles from modern depositional systems to improving our understanding of hydrocarbon resources at both ex  ploration and production scales. He has published over 100 scientific papers on these aspects. Throughout his time in Aberdeen he has worked extensively with UK and international oil companies and currently leads a number of industry funded consortia and is course director of the Integrated Petroleum Geoscience MSc at the University of Aberdeen.

Affiliations and Accreditation
PhD The University of Aston, UK - Stratigraphy
MSc Universities of Birmingham and Cardiff - Sedimentology and Stratigraphy
BSc  University of Manchester - Geology

Courses Taught
N155: Introduction to Clastic Depositional Systems: A Petroleum Perspective


John Howell

John Howell is Chair in Virtual Geosciences at the University of Aberdeen, where he has been a professor since 2012. In the past 25 years, he has worked on outcrops from all over the World with special focus on the western USA. He currently runs the SAFARI project, a collaboration between University of Aberdeen and Uni Bergen, supported by 13 companies.

John read for a PhD in reservoir sedimentology at the University of Birmingham (1992). He proceeded to the University of Liverpool where he spent 10 years working as a researcher and lecturer. During that time he participated in numerous oil industry funded projects, collaborating with virtually all the major oil companies, primarily in the fields of sedimentology, sequence stratigraphy and latterly reservoir modelling. In 2002 he took a professorship at the University of Bergen to further his applied research interests in analogue reservoir modelling. In 2005 he was one of the founders of Rocksource, a Norwegian Independent E&P Company. He worked there in the senior management until end 2011 initially as the Production Manager and latterly the CTO.

John has worked in a diverse range of basins on six continents, supervised over 50 PhD students, published more than a 150 papers, and edited 7 books. He was an AAPG distinguished lecturer in 2009. His current research focuses on virtual geosciences, including the improved use of analogues for understanding reservoirs. Over the past 15 years he has pioneered the use of Virtual Outcrops, collected using lidar and more recently UAVs (drones), in the geosciences. He is passionate about outreach in the geosciences. He was a co-host on "The Big Monster Dig", a TV series on geology and palaeontology for C4 and Discovery. He also has numerous other TV and radio credits as a scientific expert.

Affiliations and Accreditation
PhD University of Birmingham - Reservoir Sedimentology
BA University of Cardiff - Geology
Fellow of the Geological Society of London

Courses Taught
N106: Advanced Reservoir Modelling (Elgin, UK)
N155: Introduction to Clastic Depositional Systems: A Petroleum Perspective
N298: Reservoir Analogues for the Southwestern Barents Sea: Outcrop Examples from Svalbard (Norway)
N335: Modelling Clastic Reservoirs (Pyrenees, Spain)
N532: Aeolian and Dryland Fluvial Reservoirs: Field and Virtual Outcrop (Elgin, UK)
N550: North Sea Multiphase Rift Evolution: Outcrop to Subsurface Perspectives on Stratigraphy, Sedimentology & Petroleum Systems (East Coast, UK)

Howard Johnson

Howard Johnson has around 30 years of petroleum-related experience, divided equally between Shell and Imperial College London. He is currently the Shell Professor of Petroleum Geology at Imperial College, a position that he has held since 1993. He is Director of the MSc Petroleum Geoscience course (45-50 students annually), and Head of the Petroleum Geoscience and Engineering Research Section, which is a research-active, multidisciplinary group comprising 14 academic staff and around 50 PhD students and research staff. His personal research interests are in clastic sedimentology and reservoir characterization.

He has wide experience in delivering technical courses for petroleum industry professionals, including Development Geology, Reservoir Characterisation and Sedimentology. He has published around 50 technical publications.

Affiliations and Accreditation
PhD University of Oxford - Geology (focus on Sedimentology)
BSc University of Liverpool - Geology
Geological Society

Courses Taught
N008: An Introduction to Reservoir Appraisal & Development
N195: Deltaic to Deep Water Depositional Systems of NW Borneo - Concepts & Models for Reservoir Prediction (NW Borneo, Malaysia)

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