Oil and Gas

Oil and Gas | Basin Analysis

Play Analysis for Targeted Prospect Identification

Course Code: N425
Instructors:  Mark Thompson
Course Outline:  Download
Format and Duration:
4 days
8 sessions


Play fairway analysis and common risking segment (CRS) mapping are commonly used in the evaluation of frontier basins. However, they can also be successfully applied to more mature basins where moderate-sized accumulations, perhaps in subtle trap configurations, await the attention of the creative explorer. This course will emphasise how understanding the geology can lead to the identification of both high- and low-risk areas and ultimately lead to the discovery of untapped resources. Topics include play definition; construction of gross depositional environment (GDE) maps; play fairway analysis of reservoir, seal, source and charge; risk and uncertainty; risking using CRS; play resource estimates; trap domains.


"Good real data examples, excellent mix of lecturing and exercises"

Duration and Training Method

This is a "hands-on" classroom or virtual classroom course comprising a mixture of lectures, discussion, case studies, and practical exercises. The course will have a workshop format with the majority of time spent using and interpreting the data under the guidance of an industry expert. Case histories are taken from the UK, Norway, USA, Canada, Indonesia, Brazil, and Vietnam, among others.

Course Overview

Participants will learn to:

  1. Evaluate ‘hero’ lines and define the key plays in a basin.
  2. Map the understanding of the play elements (presence and effectiveness of reservoir, source and seal) and consider interpretation confidence and alternative models.
  3. Integrate risks on all play elements to compile common risk segment maps and calibrate with drilling statistics and well failure/success analyses.
  4. Determine play resource and yet to find estimates using various techniques, including creaming curves and field size gap analysis, geochemical volumetrics, and prospect density.
  5. Consider the importance of stratigraphic and subtle traps in the exploration of mature basins.

Part 1

  • Play definition: play fairway and petroleum system
  • Play fairway map, events chart, and play cartoon
  • Importance of the regional foundation (structure, stratigraphic and petroleum systems)
  • Workflow overview: Play definition, play elements and interpretation confidence map, common risk segment mapping, resource estimates at play level

Part 2

  • Construction of Gross Deposition Environment (GDE) maps from seismic, seismic attributes, isochores and key wells
  • Presence of play elements: reservoir, top seal, and source presence and quality
  • Effectiveness of play elementsReservoir deliverability, seal capacity, charge access
  • Importance of first carrier, lateral versus vertical drained systems, maturity versus organo-facies, effects of early oil and pore pressure on porosity, and charge focus
  • Event charts 

Part 3

  • Risk versus uncertainty, phase risk and composition
  • Risking plays using Common Risk Segment mapping - calibration using fields and well failures
  • Play resource (yet to find) estimates - creaming curves, field size distributions, areal yield, prospect density, leads and prospect inventories
  • Trap domains
  • A brief overview of the importance of stratigraphic and subtle traps in the exploration of mature basins

North Slope Alaska Exercise

Applying what we have learned in the course so far to this final exercise. There have been a number of world class discoveries announced in Alaska over the last few years. Subtle trapping controls the majority of the discoveries in the basin and stratigraphic trapping may provide substantial undiscovered volumes.

The database is a good quality regional 2D seismic grid over the NPRA, supplemented with information from outcrop, well data, and fields from the prolific area over the Barrow Arch to the east. Participants will:

  • Evaluate a regional line and construct a play fairway cartoon.
  • Agree which are the key horizons to map for a regional evaluation and map these around on the available regional grid.
  • Construct GDEs for reservoir and source presence.
  • Tackle the 3 effective play elements (seal capacity, reservoir quality and charge access).
  • Construct CRS (risk) maps and consider resource estimates.
  • Participate in a discussion of where the future potential lies, considering key failures and successes in the basin and their implications for future potential.

The course is aimed at exploration geoscientists with experience of seismic interpretation, having a sound understanding of other geoscience disciplines and how they impact petroleum systems and plays. The course will most benefit geoscientists with 1-5 years of experience, or those with little practical knowledge of play fairway analysis. It will also serve as an excellent refresher for more experienced geoscientists.

Mark Thompson

Mark is Director of Lurch Oil Consultation Limited and is an Associate member of RPS Nautilus. As well as teaching courses on the Nautilus programme, Mark has been deeply involved in delivering training courses as part of a cohesive exploration capability development programme for a national oil company.

Mark is from Staffordshire in the British Midlands. He went to Cambridge University 1974 to 1977 to do a Natural Sciences degree, specialising in Geology. Mark joined BP straight out of University and successfully developed a career in both exploration and development geology, attaining the position of Senior Exploration Advisor before leaving BP at the end of 2014. He has been involved in many hydrocarbon discoveries worldwide in numerous basins. He was for many years a global coach in BP, where he prepared and taught many internal courses.

Mark’s career has taken him on many postings including Brazil, Egypt, Indonesia and Norway. His main interests include basin analysis, play fairway and prospect analysis. He has published on a wide variety of topics including alternative explanations for depth dependent stretching, heat flow associated with underplating and play fairway analysis. Interests outside geology include walking and orienteering.

Affiliations and Accreditation
MA University of Cambridge - Natural Science, Geology

Courses Taught
N005: Tectonic Controls on Basin Development and Petroleum Systems
N378: Basin Analysis for Petroleum Geoscientists
N380: Seismic Interpretation Workshop: Play Recognition on Passive Margins
N425: Play Analysis for Targeted Prospect Identification
N477: A Systematic Approach to Defining and Evaluating Stratigraphic and Subtle Combination Traps
N522: Integrated Charge Access Evaluation: The Key to Successful Exploration

CEU: 2.8 Continuing Education Units
PDH: 28 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.