Oil and Gas

Oil and Gas | Geophysics and Seismic Interpretation

Seismic Interpretation Workshop: Play Recognition on Passive Margins

Course Code: N380
Instructors:  Mike MayallMark Thompson
Course Outline:  Download
Format and Duration:
5 days
10 sessions


Business impact: The deepwater down to 2500 m and beyond has seen huge amounts of exploration activity over the last decade. In this course we will discuss the established deepwater petroleum provinces and we will also discuss emerging new provinces/plays. Emphasis will be on mega-regional seismic lines to understand the structural and trapping styles, the diversity of play systems, and how they work. This course aims to teach explorers how to look for petroleum by understanding an outstanding analogue set of world class deepwater provinces, based on excellent quality margin-wide, long offset seismic lines.

Tuition will comprise the interpretation of individual seismic lines from proven and emerging deep water petroleum provinces to identify the mega-sequences, predict plays and understand why each province is successful.


'Great examples from different settings around the globe. I thoroughly enjoyed the course, and the enthusiasm Mike & Mark brought to the room in a very down-to-earth attitude. Thanks!'

Duration and Training Method

This is a classroom or virtual classroom course based principally around the interpretation of high quality, regional scale seismic data. The course will have a workshop format with the majority of time spent using and interpreting the data under the guidance of industry experts.

Course Overview

Participants will learn to:

  1. Recognise the full range of crustal structures that can underlie passive margins and the impact on hydrocarbon exploration.
  2. Develop a systematic and rigorous workflow to evaluate the hydrocarbon potential of passive margins from regional seismic data.
  3. Assess passive margin mega-sequences and the potential sources, seals and reservoirs within them.
  4. Predict plays and play diversity on passive margins.
  5. Evaluate the range of structural and stratigraphic trapping styles in proven plays and how to apply this knowledge to new basins.
  6. Evaluate the regional context for new emerging plays.
  7. Integrate knowledge of refraction and wide angle reflection seismic data and Deep Sea Drilling Project and Ocean Drilling Programme wells and how they affect evaluation of petroleum systems.
  8. Understand the potential of applying descriptions and understanding of successful plays to other basins.

Tuition will comprise the interpretation of individual seismic lines from proven and emerging deep water petroleum provinces to identify the mega-sequences, predict plays and understand why each province is successful. The provinces will be tailored for individual needs and could include:

  •  N Slope Alaska to illustrate the work flow.
  • Volcanic passive margins:
    • i. Faeroe-Shetland Basin (iSIMM)

  • Exhumed mantle margins
    • i. Iberia-Newfoundland conjugates

  •  Gravity sliding/gravity spreading associated with large delta systems (circum-Africa and GOM):
    • i. Niger Delta (shale diapirism)
      ii. GOM (salt- ponded mini-basins)
      iii. Levant margin (distal part of the Nile system, covered by thick salt)
      iv. Lower Congo Basin and Kwanza (salt)

    • Stratigraphic plays from the equatorial margins of Africa and South America:
      • i. Deep water Tano Basin (Jubilee)
        ii. French Guiana (Zaedyus)
        iii. Sergipe Alagoas (submarine fans draping subtle outer high)
        iv. Senegal (SNE and FAN discoveries)

    • Carbonate margins:
      • i. Santos Basin (pre-salt carbonates)
        ii. Adriatic (Croatia and Italy)

    • Post trap modification
      • i. Westralia Basin, NW Australia (mostly clastics with carbonate cover) contrast Barrow/Dampier Exmouth with Timor JDA

    The seismic lines will be interspersed with selected modules that refresh the basic principles and will include the following topics:

    • Latest views on the evolution and structure of passive margins especially of distal margins
    • Structural styles and trap types
    • Sequence and seismic stratigraphic analysis of clastic and carbonates, mega-sequence break-down and prediction of source, seal and reservoir
    • Stratigraphic trapping geometries
    • Importance of charge foci
    • Use of refraction data, potential fields and importance of Deep Sea Drilling Project and Ocean Drilling Programme wells

     We gratefully acknowledge the use of selected seismic to Spectrum Geo Ltd.

    The course is aimed at explorers with experience of seismic interpretation, having a sound understanding of other geoscience disciplines and how they impact petroleum systems and plays. The workshop format demands a high degree of commitment and involvement by participants, who are urged to bring to the course relevant material that can contribute to the discussion.

    Mike Mayall

    Mike Mayall  is a consultant for the oil industry and has also helped develop and deliver industry training courses on ‘Passive margin play concepts’ and ‘Maximising the impact of analogues across the E&P cycle’. He is a Visiting Professor at Imperial College London with a research program on sedimentation and tectonics in slope systems. He also teaches on the Petroleum Geology MSc course. Mike works with the Aberdeen University deep-water PRAXS consortia on developing workflows for interpreting deep-water slope systems. He has numerous publications particularly on deep-water sediments.

    Mike started at BP as a sedimentologist in the International group in London and worked on numerous projects from all over the world, particularly in Indonesia, Ireland, Norway and Alaska. He later became manager of the International Sedimentology group and subsequently moved to Houston as manager of an Integrated Reservoir Description group. Mike spent four years in Houston where he was involved in many projects including early exploration and appraisal of the deepwater Gulf of Mexico.  On returning to London Mike worked on major projects in the NW shelf of Australia and on clastic and carbonate reservoirs offshore Vietnam. When new giant discoveries were made in deepwater offshore Angola Mike was part of the small BP team which evaluated the discoveries and took them through the BP sanctioning process. During this time Mike was able to interpret the fabulous seismic data, integrate with small multidiscipline teams and work with, and learn from, the operating teams in other major companies. Through this thrilling and exhilarating period Mike was involved in the appraisal and sanctioning of ten major projects in deepwater reservoirs. Thirty four years after starting with BP, Mike retired to become an independent consultant.

    Mike’s key skills are in reducing complex technical issues to practical and pragmatic value focused on important element of a project. He is an energetic and passionate advocate of technical quality, teaching and coaching of both young and more experienced professionals. Mike has taught many field and classroom training courses ranging from basic sedimentology and petroleum geology to conducting advanced workshops. Mike has always had strong links with academia and he is enthusiastic about applying research results to industry subsurface problems. Mike has published papers on clay mineralogy, Devonian limestones, shelf edge deltas, tufted algal mats, Miocene carbonates and earthquake beds. His more recent work has been focussed on deepwater reservoirs and he has published a number of papers with colleagues from industry and academia.

    Affiliations and Accreditation
    PhD Reading University - The late Triassic (Rhaetian) transgression in SW Britain
    MSc Reading University - Sedimentology and it’s Applications
    BSc Cardiff University - Geology, Honors

    Courses Taught
    N533: Deepwater Deposiitional Systems (Virtual Outcrops)
    N372: Integrated Subsurface Description in a Working Petroleum System (North Derbyshire, UK)
    N477: A Systematic Approach to Defining and Evaluating Stratigraphic and Subtle Combination Traps
    N483: Deepwater Stratigraphy and Facies Analysis from Seismic, Well Data and Outcrops

    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: 3.5 Continuing Education Units
    PDH: 35 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.