Deepwater Reservoirs: Exploration and Production Concepts

Course Description

Sandstones deposited in deep marine environments form important hydrocarbon reservoirs in many basins around the world. Interbedded mudstones can be important as source rocks, as well as acting as barriers, baffles and seals. Deepwater reservoirs are currently the principal target for oil and gas exploration, with over 1600 existing turbidite fields and plays. Driven by technological advances and much improved scientific understanding, the pace of exploration and discovery in this realm is fast accelerating. Keeping pace with these developments and with the new knowledge base is essential for all those involved in deepwater systems. What began as the turbidite reservoir has matured into the more varied deepwater play of the 21st century that no company can afford to ignore.

This course is designed to provide the participant with a state-of-the- art review and update, thereby providing an overall understanding of the complexity of the deep marine system. It will outline the processes and facies and how they evolve on the slope and in the open ocean; discuss how these facies build into distinctive architectural elements and how they can be recognized in the subsurface. The course also covers analysis and interpretation of seismic records, sea floor images, well logs (including borehole image logs), core materials and outcrop characteristics of the component elements of deepwater reservoirs, emphasizing internal architecture as related to reservoir performance. Examples from different deepwater plays around the world will be used to further illustrate their exploration, appraisal, development and reservoir management.

Course Outline

Day 1: Deepwater Overview, Building Blocks & Architecture


  • Global and historical perspectives, technologies and current trends
  • Deepwater systems with hydrocarbons or hydrocarbon potential
  • Ancient and modern analogues of deepwater systems
  • Process-facies overview and state-of-the-art


  • Mass transport processes and facies: slides, slumps, debris flows
  • Turbidity currents: massive sands and thin-bedded turbidites
  • Hyperpycnal flows: new deepwater models
  • Subsurface recognition, examples and reservoir characteristics


  • Contour (bottom) currents: processes and facies
  • Deepwater tides, waves and other bottom currents
  • Subsurface recognition, examples and reservoir characteristics


  • Pelagic-hemipelagic processes and facies
  • Deepwater black shales: nature, occurrence and examples
  • Petroleum perspective: barriers, baffles and source rocks


  • Overview of deepwater architectural elements
  • Channel style, geometry fill characteristics
  • Mass transport complexes in channels and basins
  • Subsurface wireline logs and reservoir examples


  • Turbidite lobes and sheets
  • Contourite drifts and sheets
  • Subsurface wireline logs and reservoir examples

Day 2: Seismic/Sequence Stratigraphy and Deepwater Plays


  • Synthesis of deepwater models and their features
  • Seismic characteristics of deepwater elements and systems
  • Wireline log characteristics and borehole image logs
  • Sea-level, tectonic, sediment supply and other controls
  • Sequence stratigraphy and depositional models


  • Case studies: modern, ancient and subsurface examples
  • Reservoir size, homogeneity and connectivity
  • Deliberate search for the perfect deepwater reservoir


  • Case studies: modern, ancient and subsurface examples
  • Reservoir potential and development issues
  • The problem of shales and shale dimensions


  • Special issues for drilling in deepwater
  • Slope instability and hazard mapping
  • Turbidity currents and bottom currents: potential hazard


  • Lessons from established turbidite plays: North Sea, California, Bohai and others
  • Lessons from current deepwater provinces: Gulf of Mexico, West Africa, NW UK Continental Margin, Brazil, North Slope Alaska, Nile Delta and others
  • Interactive discussion session to consider implications for exploration, appraisal, development and reservoir management; to share and discuss individual datasets, experience, questions and problems
  • The new frontiers… current targets and expectation
  • Course summary and take-home lessons

Participants’ Profile

All geologists, geophysicists and petroleum engineers involved in exploration and development of the deepwater play. Project managers for deepwater plays and reservoir production.


Participants should have basic knowledge of stratigraphy and sedimentology.

About the Instructor

Professor Stow is a leading specialist and internationally renowned expert in deepwater sedimentary systems, with 40 years experience in modern, ancient and subsurface sediments. He has a particular interest in deepwater hydrocarbons, including numerous joint research projects with industry, individual consultancies, short course and field course organisation. His extensive record of scientific publications includes over 250 scientific papers and reports, numerous books and edited volumes. He is currently engaged on a major research initiative with the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program that drilled west of the Gibraltar gateway in the Atlantic Ocean, and writing a book on Deepwater Sedimentary Systems.

Professor Stow is a lively, interesting and highly informed instructor. He is a seasoned presenter to audiences large and small, specialist and generalist. He is able to draw upon a great wealth of experience and examples to fully illustrate his presentations, and utilizes short course exercises for further instruction. His teaching and instruction has been highly acclaimed at all levels.

His recent text Sedimentary Rocks in the Field (Manson, 2005) is a must-have for students and professional geologists alike, while Oceans: An Illustrated Reference (Oxford University Press and University of Chicago Press, 2004) and Vanished Ocean (OUP 2010) represent a venture into popular science. He is currently Head of the Institute of Petroleum Engineering and Professor of Petroleum Geoscience at Heriot Watt University (Edinburgh, UK). Professor Stow has been an enthusiastic lecturer and speaker throughout the world, on everything from deep-sea turbidites to the Lost Tethys Ocean.

He has worked with many different oil and gas companies in the provision of in-house or collective courses, field and core workshops, and in collaborative research projects. Companies have included: Anadarko, AGACO, BP, Britoil, Chevron, Elf, ETAP, Maersk, Mobil, NExT Schlumberger, Nexen, Petrobras, Petronas, Repsol, Shell, and UNI.