Oil and Gas

Oil and Gas | Structure and Tectonics

Practical Salt Tectonics

Course Code: N149
Instructors:  Mark Rowan
Course Outline:  Download
Format and Duration:
4 days


Business Impact: Geoscientists completing this class will help their companies to identify, evaluate and risk salt-related prospects; build more accurate velocity models in areas of tough seismic imaging; and assess the results of appraisal wells and plan development scenarios.

This class provides a comprehensive overview of all aspects of global salt tectonics, covering content ranging from the depositional and tectonic settings of salt basins,  mechanics, diapirism, structural styles of salt deformation, salt-sediment interaction and the impact of salt on the petroleum systems. The course comprises lectures and exercises involving interpretation of seismic data from basins around the world.


"Great course. Well delivered. Covered all the aspects that were expected. Lots of great examples, to demonstrate the key concepts to be aware of when interpreting salt structure/stratigraphy in the sub-surface (and great examples on how some of these concepts have evolved through salt studies). Course clearly benefits from Mark's immense expertise on this and great teaching style."

Duration and Training Method

This is a classroom course comprising lectures, discussion, and practical exercises.

Course Overview

Participants will learn to:

  1. Summarise the nature of layered-evaporite basins and their tectonic settings.
  2. Evaluate how salt impacts deformation in different tectonic environments including rift basins, passive margins and convergent-margin fold-and-thrust belts.
  3. Describe how salt differs from other lithologies and what factors drive salt flow.
  4. Characterise the ways in which differential loading, extension and contraction trigger salt flow and diapir growth.
  5. Interpret typical salt and stratal geometries associated with salt evacuation and diapirism, welds, turtle structures and expulsion rollovers.
  6. Predict how drape folding around passive diapirs impacts stratal geometries, faulting, and reservoir distribution in diapir-flank traps.
  7. Evaluate the geometries that result from extension or shortening of pre-existing diapirs and minibasins.
  8. Interpret salt structures on seismic data, while avoiding the pitfalls associated with complex salt bodies.
  9. Assess the effect of salt on various aspects of the petroleum system, including reservoir presence and quality, hydrocarbon maturation and migration, and weld seal.
  • Introduction
  • Salt basins
    • Layered evaporite sequences
    • Tectonic settings
  • Exercise 1 – Salt and presalt, South Atlantic
  • Mechanics
  • Exercise 2 - Intrasalt deformation, North Sea and Santos Basin
  • Extensional salt tectonics
    • Thin-skinned contraction
    • Diapir initiation and reactivation
    • Thick-skinned contraction
  • Exercise 3 - Extensional Structures, Espiritu Santo Basin
  • Contractual salt tectonics
    • Thin-skinned contraction
    • Diapir initiation and reactivation
    • Thick-skinned contraction
  • Exercise 4 - Contractional structures, Espiritu Santo Basin
  • Strike-slip salt tectonics
  • Vertical salt tectonics
    • Differential loading
    • Expulsion-rollover and turtle strcutures
    • Passive diapirs
  • Exercise 5 - Diapirs and minibasins, Nordkapp Basin
  • Near-diapir deformation
  • Salt dissolution
  • Exercise 6 - Diapir flanks, Gulf of Mexico
  • Allochthonous salt tectonics
    • Emplacement and advance
    • Salt-sheet styles
  • Exercise 7 - Allochthonous salt, Gulf of Mexico
  • Petroleum Systems Implications
    • Trap
    • Reservoir distribution and facies
    • Hydrocarbon maturation and migration
    • Seal
  • Interpretation guidelines

Exploration and development geologists and geophysicists working in salt basins around the world.

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)

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.