Oil and Gas

Oil and Gas | Structure and Tectonics

Predicting Reservoir and Petroleum Systems in Rifts and Extensional Basins (New Mexico & Colorado, USA)

Course Code: N407
Instructors:  Lee Krystinik
Course Outline:  Download
Format and Duration:
6 days


Business Impact: Rifts and extensional basins often contain highly complex reservoir systems that can make your engineers pull their hair out; this course focuses on making economic sense from the geological complexity which is typical of rifts.

Set in the scenic Rio Grande Rift between Alamosa, CO, Santa Fe and Albuquerque, NM, this course exposes geoscientists and engineers to modern and preserved examples of reservoir systems within an active rift basin. Major tectonic elements and a broad spectrum of depositional environments will be examined, including volcanic features often linked to "false positive" anomalies on seismic data in rift basins. Emphasis will be placed on predicting reservoir presence, morphology and quality, and spatial juxtaposition with seal and source lithologies. These observations directly impact completion technologies, reservoir characterization and plans of depletion and apply to many extensional basins.

Duration and Training Method

This six-day field and classroom course starts in Colorado and ends in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The trip route will have multi-night stays in Alamosa, Colorado and Santa Fe, New Mexico. Participants will spend 80% of their time in the field, with interactive discussion of the implications for reservoir prediction and engineering considerations and how geological factors may impact the plan of depletion in a given reservoir. The daily itinerary includes conceptual lectures, subsurface exercises and observation of modern deposits and preserved outcrop examples to emphasize critical components in the evaluation of reservoirs in rifts and extensional basins. Four subsurface exercises will focus on various aspects of exploration and assessment in rift complexes. Training style will be guided group observations, with discussion of implications of these observations for exploration and exploitation.

Course Overview

Participants will learn to:

  1. Identify and predict reservoir systems common to rift basins each with its own issues for completion and reservoir engineers, including: Alluvial Fans and Fan Deltas, Aeolian Dune Complexes and Siliciclastic Sabkhas, Tributary and Axial Fluvial Systems, Lacustrine Shoreline and Deltaic deposits, Evaporative NaCO3 Playas (similar to lake Magadi), Cyanobacterial Evaporative Source Rocks
  2. Link these systems within the structural framework of rifting relative to basin bounding faults and lateral ramps along the axis of the rift and understand the engineering and development implications.
  3.  Understand the internal heterogeneities, juxtaposition and facies interrelationships among these systems within the context of economic recovery of the in-place reserves.
  4.  Predict typical reservoir spatial relationships and lateral continuity for the broad spectrum of clastic sedimentary systems in rift basins; this can have huge impact on project economics.
  5. Construct predictive frameworks for rift fills from limited well log and seismic data.
  6. Assess potential stratigraphic and structural trapping mechanisms in rifts to find new exploration areas and to determine bypassed opportunity in the more heavily explored parts of your basin.
  7. Determine the appropriate ratio of potential reservoir vs. seal lithologies.
  8. Develop predictive models for sandstone reservoirs in various locales within a rift basin.  Engineering reservoir models must acknowledge rapid vertical and lateral changes in their reservoir.
  9. Evaluate the economic application of key concepts and the difficulty involved in predicting play fairways across transfer faults.
  10. Determine strategies for reservoir characterization, modeling, and ultimately designing a geologically driven plan of depletion within a rifted basin reservoir complex.

This course allows students to understand the scale and complexity of the interrelationships between the very diverse depositional systems that make up reservoir and source/seal systems in rifted and extensional basins. These complexities directly impact economics and reservoir engineering issues.  Finding it and making it flow doesn’t necessarily make it economic and this course addresses a number of potential pitfalls as well as pathways toward potential success.  Systems to be examined are noted above in the Learning Outcomes. Reservoir and petroleum system prediction in rifted and extensional basins is the ultimate focus.

The modern system and outcrop examples are textbook quality but with real-world complexities. Participants will learn to work with the disparate data and observations common in these basins and to place them within a predictive framework for exploration and exploitation


Day 0

  • Group flies into Alamosa, Colorado
  • Pre-dinner reception: Introductions, Safety Briefing & Introductory Lecture : Overview of course objectives and the rift basin tectonic and depositional setting and their relative economic importance
  • Overnight in Alamosa, Colorado

Day 1

  • Breakfast Lecture: Breakfast Lecture:  Alluvial,  Aeolian and Sabkha Systems in Rifts – facies and reservoir behavior – overview of the rift basin tectonic and depositional setting and course objectives
  • Alluvial fan observations from surface and excavated exposures
  • Observation transect from proximal to distal and laterally on a modern alluvial fan and economic implications
  • Aeolian Ergs, localization in rifts and fluvial interaction as seen at Great Sand Dunes National Park - observations of transverse dune systems, depositional locusand reservoir management issues.
  • Trenches of facies, proximity to alluvial fans and braided feeder stream. Reservoir implications in volcanic-rich Aeolian sediments (the bad news and the good news for completion and reservoir engineers)
  • Underfilled lakes/evaporative sabkha settings and link to petroleum systems in rifts.
  • Modern observations of lacustrine setting, shoreline and fluvial input points
  • Modern observation of Playas, cyanobacterial mats, salt pans, and early clay and silica diagenesis in Sodium carbonate brines (pH levels up to 13). Evaporative source rocks, alternative hydrocarbon source systems in other basins (stratified vs. oxygenated lakes, possible marine incursions).
  • Overnight in Alamosa, Colorado

Day 2

  • Breakfast Lecture on Axial Fluvial Reservoirs vs Tributary Systems
  • Correlation exercise in axial fluvial reservoirs and the reservoir vs. seal dilemma and designing an evaluation approach for reservoir assessment
  • Variable character of the channel belt within the axial stream along trend
  • Trench exposures from a point bar in the river. Differences in the deposit down-flow along the point bar
  • Quarry exposures of axial stream (paleo Rio Grande) deposits. Paleosols, older lake-margin deposits, mammalian burrows and homogenization of deposits.
  • Marsh and peat deposits in marginal lacustrine environment.
  • Fluvial, eolian, lake-margin and laminate central basin deposits in trenches along a major fault scarpand the implications for exploration opportunity and key observations for well spacing and engineering plan of depletion.
  • Overnight in Alamosa, Colorado

    Day 3

    • Breakfast Lecture: Lateral change along the axis of a rift
    • Traverse south along the Rio Grande Rift, across two sub-basins and visiting both margins of the rift and crossing the Rio Grande river several times, each in very different behavioral modes.
    • Aeolian/Fluvial interactions in 11 million year old deposits. Aeolian and coarse fluvial systems along the rift margin and axis.  
    • Precambrian basement on margin of rift                                            
    • Massive basalt flows and the Rio Grande Gorge
    • Major transfer zone and associated faulting.  Fault systems and juxtaposition of reservoir facies along the margin of the Rio Grande Rift
    • Overnight for days 3, 4 and 5 in Santa Fe, New Mexico

    Day 4

    •  Breakfast lecture: Volcanic components of rifts and seismic “false positives”, Valles Caldera and the Bandelier Tuff
    • Traverse the rift to Valles Caldera: Cultural stop at Bandelier National Monument
    • Valles Caldera and secondary cones.
    • Bandelier Tuff, basalt flows, sub-lacustrine flows, coarse bounding alluvial/fluvial systems.
    • Overview of the rift, Rio Grande and small volcanic center and associated flows.
    • Bandelier Tuff, basalt flows, sub-lacustrine flows, coarse bounding alluvial/fluvial systems.
    • Free evening in Santa Fe. 

    Day 5

    • Breakfast lecture and exercise: Integrating a reservoir model for rifts. Linking the rock observations to economic success
    • Fault damage zone, physical and chemical components of potential seals and internal barriers to flow
    • Overview of the rift and basin bounding fault from the west side of the rift
    • Angular unconformity between pre-rift and syn-rift succession
    • Fault controlled basalt dike intrusion along a small transfer fault
    • Fluvial/Lacustrine(?) succession of “clean”, cobbly to sandy medium-grained, but diagenetically very dirty succession, fault damage zone and engineering issues.  Walking in the footsteps of Georgia O’Keefe
    • Overnight in Santa Fe.

    Day 6

    • Breakfast lecture on integrating a reservoir model for rifted and extensional basins. How do we apply this knowledge at the single well and field scale?
    • Visit modern and ancient examples of the various reservoir facies along the margins of the Rio Grande Rift
    • Alluvial fan traverse
    • Major basin bounding fault and associated facies and tributary alluvial/fluvial deposits
    • Rio Grande: Braided axial stream
    • Ancient axial stream deposits
    • Traverse across a large-scale eolian/fluvial/lacustrine basinal fill
    • Field discussion and wrap up
    • End of trip celebration and last night at the Hyatt Tamaya at the foot of a dormant volcano

    Day 7

    • Drive to Albuquerque for flights home

    Geologists, geophysicists, engineers and other professionals engaged in production and/or exploration for clastic reservoir systems, especially in rift or extensional basin settings. Although the course is designed for experienced participants, those with less experience should also benefit from this course.

    The course is also suitable for asset managers with responsibility for the exploitation of rift and extensional basin assets, in addition to technical support staff developing into the Geology and Geophysics disciplines.

    Lee Krystinik

    Dr. Lee F. Krystinik has specialized in using sedimentary and stratigraphic analysis to find oil and gas in clastic reservoirs since he received his Ph.D. in geology from Princeton University. Krystinik has held positions as Manager of Regional Studies at Reservoirs Inc., Manager of Geology at Union Pacific Resources and Global Chief Geologist for ConocoPhillips. He Co-founded and successfully sold Fossil Creek Resources, a privateequity funded start up and is a founding Partner in Equus Alliance, LLC and Equus Energy Partners, LLC, an exploration investment partnerships that apply new technologies in the search for overlooked targets, predominantly shallow, conventional oil targets.

    His areas of interest include syn-tectonic sedimentation and other controls on basin-fill architecture, integrated play assessment and cost effective implementation of new concepts and technology. Dr. Krystinik has been an AAPG Distinguished Lecturer in North America and Latin America and he is a past President of both SEPM and AAPG.

    Affiliations and Accreditation
    PhD Princeton University - Geology
    Past President of AAPG and SEPM

    Courses Taught
    N011: High Resolution Sequence Stratigraphy: Reservoir Applications (Utah, USA)
    N027: Reservoir Sedimentology & Stratigraphy of Continental Clastic Systems (Wyoming, USA)
    N042: Reservoir Sedimentology & Stratigraphy of Coastal and Shelfal Successions: Deltas, Shorelines and Origins of Isolated Sandstones (NW Colorado, USA)
    N244: Clastic Reservoir Prediction Using Advanced Sequence Stratigraphic Interpretation (Wyoming, USA)
    N407: Predicting Reservoir and Petroleum Systems in Rifts and Extensional Basins (New Mexico & Colorado, USA)
    N451: Practical Oil-Finders Guide to Siliciclastic Sequence Stratigraphy (Wyoming)
    N463: Geological Drivers for Tight-Oil and Unconventional Plays in the Powder River Basin and Applications to Other Basins (Wyoming, USA)


    CEU: 4.8 Continuing Education Units
    PDH: 48 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.