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The Australian School of Petroleum (ASP) is Australia's premier centre of excellence for education, research and training in petroleum geoscience, petroleum engineering and petroleum business decision making. The ASP currently offers two Masters degree programs taught in an industry short-course format: the Master of Science in Petroleum Geoscience (MSc) and the Master in Petroleum Engineering (MPE).  We also offer a Honours year in Petroleum Geoscience for graduates of 3-year geoscience degrees and a Graduate Certificate in Petroleum Geoscience.

Our programs aim to increase student knowledge in the essential areas of petroleum geoscience and petroleum engineering, and they provide advanced training in the theory and practice of industry-standard techniques and workflows. Study for programs begin in February and are completed within 12 months (MSc and Honours), 18 months (MPE) and 6 months (Graduate Certificate). Students receive a thorough grounding in the principles of exploration and development, while being exposed to the practical aspects of the oil and gas industry through internationally experienced staff. The curricula for these multidisciplinary programs have been developed in consultation with our petroleum industry partners, and are regularly reviewed by our advisory board to ensure their continuing relevance.

In addition to our world-class study programs, during your time with us you will have the chance to discover and experience one of the world’s best kept secrets – South Australia! Adelaide is ranked one of the top ten most liveable cities worldwide. There are many reasons – for example, our climate – that are too numerous to mention in full. Come and find out why for yourself!

For more information on the MPE program, see Master of Petroleum Engineering. Our dedicated program contact is Dr Alireza Salmachi.

More information on the Petroleum Geoscience coursework programs is given below or you can access specific information on each program at the following sites:

Our dedicated contact for the Petroleum Geoscience programs is Dr Mark Bunch.

Petroleum Geoscience Coursework Programs

The aim of the Petroleum Geoscience Coursework Program is to give students a comprehensive knowledge of the major disciplines and tools used in the field of petroleum geoscience. It was set up following extensive consultation with the petroleum industry, and is regularly reviewed to ensure its continuing relevance.

The ASP's multidisciplinary philosophy is reflected in the course curriculum, comprised of: Sedimentology and Stratigraphy, Structural Geology and Geomechanics, Geophysics, Well Site Operations, Petroleum Systems and Basin Analysis, Reservoir Seals and Pay, Reservoir Characterisation, Unconventional Resources, and Professional Skills. There are several field trips, including an 8 day excursion to the Sydney Basin, and, when possible, a visit to an area of current drilling and production operations. These courses cover the basic concepts and techniques which need to be understood by any professional geoscientist in the petroleum industry. Most courses involve considerable practical work and, where appropriate, students obtain hands-on experience with industry-standard computer software. The courses are presented by School staff, academics from other institutions, and industry experts. Courses are presented in modular format, i.e. as a series of consecutive short courses. This structure allows external lecturers to teach and industry personnel to attend the courses.

Geoscience Coursework Synopses

The Honours degree program comprises 12 units of coursework and a 12 unit research project. The Master of Science  comprises 18 units of coursework and a 6 unit research project. The Semester 1 coursework program provides significant embedded research skills development. The Graduate Certificate program comprises 12 units of coursework.

The Synopses below give brief outlines of the components of the courses making up the ASP Geoscience Coursework Program.

For more information on any course, please contact the presenter directly, or the program coordinator, Dr Mark Bunch.

  • Sedimentology

    Depositional Environments (incl. trip to core store)

    A large proportion of petroleum reservoirs are formed in siliciclastic depositional systems and this course is designed to review the fundamentals of facies analysis needed to correctly interpret depositional processes and environments. The course will review the basic sedimentary processes and resultant structures commonly encountered in cores and outcrops. It will provide criteria for practical identification and interpretation of continental (e.g. alluvial fan, lacustrine, fluvial, aeolian) marginal-marine (deltaic, shoreline, shelf) and deep-sea (e.g. slope, channel and canyon, fan) clastic depositional systems from outcrop, core and wireline log datasets. The course is an essential precursor to the following courses on stratigraphy. This course will include a visit to the Adelaide core library.

    Sandstone Petrology and Diagenesis

    This course aims to provide an understanding of the sediment characteristics and post-depositional processes that affect sandstone reservoir quality. Sandstone composition, texture and classification and their correlation with petrophysical properties are discussed. The composition of framework grains, matrix and cement are covered, including how to identify these in thin-section using a microscope. Their potential effects of these on permeability are considered. Diagenetic changes to sandstones are described and illustrated by observing thin sections under the microscope during a practical session (depending on availability of equipment).


    This course examines the components and controls on carbonate depositional systems and their diagenesis as a means of providing a basis for hydrocarbon exploration models and development strategies.

    Course components include:

    • Brief review of carbonate minerals and their occurrence in nature
    • Carbonate terminology
    • Carbonate depositional systems
    • Controls on carbonate sedimentation
    • Depositional settings - temperate vs tropical
    • Diagenesis
    • Dolomitisation
    • Carbonate Reservoirs
    • Case histories
    • Statigraphy

      Sequence Stratigraphy

      Sequence stratigraphy is one of the vital tools available to petroleum geologists and geophysicists as it provides a predictive framework for understanding sedimentary basin fill, and integrates seismic, wireline log, core and outcrop data. The first part of the course reviews the fundamental principles of stratigraphy and seismic stratigraphy and the basic processes controlling sedimentation including accommodation, sediment supply, parameters influencing changes in base level and relative sea level, and the stratigraphic patterns produced from changes in the ratio of accommodation versus sediment supply (transgressions and regressions). The phenomenon of sedimentary cycles is investigated at various scales (cyclothems, parasequences, progradational, aggradational and retrogradational stacking patterns). The course also deals with key surfaces (unconformities, erosion surfaces, flooding surfaces, maximum flooding surfaces), depositional sequences (Exxon, Galloway and hybrid approaches), and depositional systems tracts at various scales. A practical methodology for interpreting seismic, well log, core and biostratigraphic datasets is developed along with the skills required to prepare sequence stratigraphic frameworks that are useful for prediction of reservoir, source and seal in a petroleum system. A variety of practical exercises and a one day field excursion to Morialta Gorge are undertaken during the course.

      Log Correlation

      Concepts of stratigraphic wireline log correlation are discussed and applied to various depositional settings. The course is based on practical correlation exercises which demonstrate and explain key concepts.


      The main aim of this course is to familiarise students with the geological interpretation of biostratigraphic data. Reference is made to various biostratigraphic schemes currently utilised in Australia with emphasis palynostratigraphic schemes for the North West Shelf, PNG Fold Belt, Gippsland Basin and Cooper/Eromanga Basins.

      The course consists of a series of lectures which provide a concise review of palynomorph and micropalaeontological groups (including spore-pollen, dinoflagellate cyst, acritarchs, foraminifera, ostracods, and calcareous nannofossils) and their application in biostratigraphy and palaeoenviron - mental studies. Practical exercises on the analysis of these are designed to illustrate various techniques for geologic interpretation and construction of chronostratigraphic sections.

      The course covers the use of biostratigraphic data in age determination, subsurface well-log correlation, unconformity identification, sequence stratigraphic analysis, formation "fingerprinting" and both palaeobethymetry and palaeoenvironmental interpretation. Use of biofacies and palaeogeographic maps to reconstruct depositional sequences and predict reservoir and seal-prone intervals will be covered. Operational aspects include well-site palynology, biosteering in development wells and palynological sample selection criteria. Problems associated with the geological interpretation of palynological data are highlighted and include the factors affecting data quality (oxidised sequences, over-mature sequences, sample quality, sample processing) and age interpretation (reworking, caving, data set provenance and vintage).

      Upon completion of the course students will be able to construct a chronostratigraphic section for a basin using palynological or micropalaeontological data abstracted from well completion reports, identify micropaleontological events critical to dating and correlating a set of wells, use biofacies and palynofacies interpretations to predict reservoir and seal, compile the geological history of an area based on the subsurface distribution of palynozones, and interpret source-rock and maturity relationships using spore colour data, kerogen type and organic yield.

    • Structural Geology and Geomechanics

      Structural Geology and Geomechanics

      This course covers basic rock and fault mechanics and the determination and application of in situ stress data and in the basic principles of structural geology and focusing on the main structural geometries seen on seismic data and in outcrop oil industry.

      The section on basic rock mechanics covers forces, stress and strain and Mohr's circle of stress. The section on basic fault mechanics covers failure envelopes, fault/fracture meshes, and the Andersonian classification of faults. The significance of pore pressures and law of effective stress are presented. The origins of stresses in the crust are reviewed: specifically reference states of stress, tectonic stresses, plate tectonics, and regional and local sources of stress.

      The emphasis of the structural component of the course is on developing a workflow to allow exploration and production geologists and geophysicists to assess structural style and produce a valid structural interpretation, whilst recognizing the existence of alternate valid structural interpretations. The course will introduce the structural styles associated with extension, compression, inversion and strike-slip or salt tectonics. For most structures, examples will be shown from both seismic data and as seen in outcrop. Frequent short exercises, interpreting seismic data and outcrop images, will reinforce the theory presented.

      Most hydrocarbon prospects are critically dependent upon structural interpretation yet routine validation of the interpretation is rare. Hence the workshop will concentrate on practical methods to define the relationships between faults, folds, sedimentary packages and regional elevation and how they can be used predictively to validate an interpretation and hence a prospect. Emphasis is placed on the ‘Structural Family' present in an area, which depends strongly on the basement architecture and tectonic history.

      The course then moves specifically to the oil patch, reviewing methods for determining the in situ stress field from standard oil exploration data: overburden stress, horizontal stress orientation, borehole breakouts, drilling-induced tensile fractures, image logs, horizontal stress magnitudes, formation integrity, leak-off and hydraulic fracture tests, fracture gradient relations, and frictional limits on stress. Finally, the applications of in situ stress data in the oil patch are discussed, specifically: interpreting recent tectonic style, structural permeability, and optimum development of naturally fractured reservoirs, predicting fault reactivation/seal breach, and hydraulic fracture stimulation, deviated and horizontal wellbore stability.

      During the workshop, the students will be introduced to industry-standard structural modelling package, which will then be used to interpret and valid different structural scenarios. The extra-day offered to the master students will be focus on final day.

    • Geophysics

      Seismic Interpretation

      The aim of this course is to introduce geologists and geophysicists to the fundamentals of seismic interpretation. It therefore concentrates on structural interpretation, leaving stratigraphic interpretation to the Stratigraphy course. Interpretation of rock and fluid properties is introduced in the MSc extension days.

      Lectures are presented in the mornings. Topics covered include the convolutional model, seismic resolution, types and characteristics of seismic events, well to seismic ties, interpretation objectives and workflow, velocity anomalies and depth conversion. Particular emphasis is placed on well ties, fault interpretation, and the requirement for an interpretation and the resulting maps to be internally consistent and geologically sensible. The two-day Masters extension will cover topics including DHIs, AVO, thin beds and attributes.

      The afternoons are devoted to practical work, which comprises two major exercises: interpretation of 2D seismic data on a workstation, and interpretation of a 3D survey on a workstation. The workstation exercises are conducted in small groups, allowing all students to gain hands-on experience. The practicals stress the effort and discipline involved in producing a self-consistent interpretation of horizons and faults by working on grids or volumes of data, rather than interpreting single lines.

    • Well Site Operations

      Drilling Operations

      The basic equipment and operations of rotary drilling (onshore and offshore) are discussed. Operations covered include adding drillpipe, the round trip, casing and cementing, completion, and fishing. Drilling problems, rate of penetration and sampling in the wellbore are also discussed. The role of drilling muds, oil- and water-based muds and the concept of the safe mud weight envelope are covered, as are the drivers for, and techniques of deviated and horizontal drilling. The practical exercise involves the analysis of mud weight densities, the determination of the safe mud weight envelope from leak-off testing and the basic principles of casing design.

      Wireline Logging

      This course commences by covering the logging environment and basic temperature and caliper logging. It then covers the basic physical principles behind, and operation of, the major wireline logging tools, ie. self-potential, resistivity, gamma ray, sonic, density and neutron. The analysis of log data is covered both in lectures and with practical examples. The analysis techniques covered focus on the determination of fluid type from electrical logs and the determination of porosity from sonic/density/neutron logs. The interpretation of lithology from logs is also discussed. In addition, the MSc students will cover logs including resistivity and acoustic imaging tools and magnetic resonance tools.

      Mudlogging & Sample Analysis

      This course introduces the mudlogging unit and sensing equipment set up. It also discusses the background and preparation of comprehensive mud logs. The course will cover the basic operations of mudlogging, including the analysis of drill cuttings, the extraction and monitoring of gas, the evaluation of hydrocarbon shows, causes of spurious sensor readings, and monitoring of the drilling operation. A brief introduction to offshore mudlogging, coring, drilling operations and potential hazards is also included.

      Sampling methods, types of sampling equipment and sedimentary rock analytical techniques, available at the drilling rig-site and in the laboratory, are presented and discussed. Possible environments of deposition and the reliability of the lithological logs will be discussed.

    • Petroleum Systems and Basin Analysis

      Petroleum Systems and Basin Analysis

      The first component of this lecture and practical-based course covers a range of topics related to the key elements and processes of the petroleum system, including hydrocarbon generation, migration, accumulation and alteration. Techniques for source rock evaluation and assessing organic maturation are introduced and reviewed, and the mechanisms and efficiencies of migration are reconstructed.

      The second component of the course focuses on thermal history modelling and basin analysis, which provides the basis for predicting the timing and extent of petroleum generation in sedimentary basins. This component begins with the theory associated with heat flow and thermal conductivity, followed by an overview of thermal variation associated with different subsurface structures and geodynamic settings. Thermal models derived from borehole information (e.g. stratigraphy, bottom hole temperatures, lithology) and theoretical models are discussed. Different thermal maturation indicators are reviewed and their use in calibrating thermal models demonstrated. All aspects of the course are illustrated by case studies from Australian sedimentary basins.

      Australian Basins

      Following presentation of an overview, students will be split into groups. Each group will be allocated by lot an Australian basin for which they will prepare a brief seminar covering the geological development, petroleum system(s) and play type(s), and exploration and production history and potential. Each section of a talk will be presented by a different group member.

    • Reservoirs, Seals and Pay

      Reservoirs, Seals and Pay

      This practical workshop-style course demonstrates how basic geological and engineering data can be used to evaluate reservoir rock quality, fluid saturations and contact depths, transition zone thickness and seal capacity (ie the maximum hydrocarbon column a seal can hold before it leaks). The course comprises lectures, case histories and several hands-on exercises to be completed in class and as assignments. Students will work in teams for most exercises. This course aims to bring together the disciplines of geology, geophysics, and reservoir engineering to provide an integrated approach to developing oil and gas fields. The primary focus of the course is on the role of the geologist in a multidisciplinary team environment.

      The various components of the course include:

      • Introduction to evaluation of reservoirs and seals
      • Discussion of uses of capillary principles in reservoir evaluation; fundamentals of capillarity: buoyancy vs. capillary pressure; wettability; contact angles; derivation of capillary pressure equations; definition of Free Water Level; description of mercury injection apparatus
      • Discussion of the effects of pore geometry (size, shape, distribution of pores and pore throats) on relative permeability and capillary pressure. Relation of these properties to amounts, types and rates of fluids produced. Use of drainage and imbibition capillary pressure data to evaluate recovery efficiency of reservoirs on primary depletion as well as to judge the distribution of remaining fluids prior to secondary production
      • Demonstrate application of integrated petrophysical and geochemical techniques in evaluation of seal potential in top seals (case history from offshore NW Java, Indonesia); review critical paths for determining whether faults are conduits or seals
      • Review concepts of top seal, "sealing" faults and "leaking" faults through a number of case studies
      • Review conventional methods of determination of net pay in a reservoir and demonstrate some improved techniques using data from core, sidewall core, cuttings, conventional plug measurements (porosity and permeability) in conjunction with capillary pressure data
      • Assess development options based on recovery efficiency, relative permeabilities, watercuts and economics.
    • Reservoir Characterisation

      Subsurface Mapping

      Contour map generation is a basic skill required for subsurface analyses. This one day course covers the skills required to hand generate contour maps from discrete data points and also the practicalities behind computer generated contour mapping.


      This course provides the student with a brief introduction to the theory of regionalised variables, and the associated techniques for estimation and simulation of spatially correlated quantities. Parameters such as porosity and permeability may be better mapped and predicted, and the uncertainties in the estimates can be better understood, using geostatistical techniques (eg kriging, co-kriging and conditional simulation) than via conventional methods. This is because geostatistics explicitly accounts for the nature of the spatial variability of the parameter, as expressed in the semivariogram. Development geologists and reservoir engineers are making increasing use of these techniques to build more accurate reservoir models.

      Introduction to Reservoir Engineering

      The aim of this course is to provide students with an appreciation of the role of the reservoir engineer. The major concepts used in reservoir engineering will be introduced, including:

      • Fluid properties - reservoir fluids, phase diagrams, important fluid properties and their measurement or estimation, real gases vs ideal gases
      • Single-phase flow in rocks - Darcy's Law, its applications and limitations
      • Multi-phase effects - relative permeability, capillary pressure, wettability
      • Reservoir drive mechanisms
      • Material balance - gas and oil material balance.
      • Decline Curve Analysis
    • Unconventional Resources

      Unconventional Resources

      The recent development of shale gas in the United States as well as coal seam gas in Australia is triggering a strong interested towards unconventional petroleum systems around the world. In addition, the commitments of developed economy to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions is placing a focus on the development of alternative sources of energy (such as geothermal energy) and in mitigation strategies (such as carbon capture and storage). This course provides an introduction to the key issues and methods relevant to the exploration, assessment and development of unconventional reservoirs in tight and ultra-tight sands, shale gas, and coal seam gas.

    • Professional Skills

      CV Preparation and Interview Skills

      The course reviews the correct preparation of a CV and the manner in which to prepare for and what to expect in a job interview. This course is designed to review and improve the student's abilities in these areas, and mock interviews are conducted to simulate "the real thing".

      CVs are critically evaluated and group feedback of mock interview is provided.

      Presentation Skills

      (NB this course runs over two separate days, one half day workshop followed by a full day of siminars and requires work between the two sessions. It is therefore unlikely to be suitable for industry attendees.)

      Presentation skills are crucial to oil industry professionals. This course is delivered in two separate sessions. The first half day session will go through the basic principles of giving good presentations, including the use and abuse of PowerPoint. Students will then prepare a presentation on a petroleum topic of interest to them, which they will present in the second session. The presentations will be critiqued by the class, based on the principles of presenting that have been discussed.

      Exploration Management

      This course is designed to acquaint the student with oil industry structure, government agencies, legislation, joint ventures, and farm-ins and farm-outs. The economic portion of this course involves the understanding of cash flow, payout, profit to investment ratios, and time value concepts including rate of return and net present value. Aspects of industry and company performance, strategy formulation and the use of metrics are also covered. In addition, exploration decision analysis is presented with topics such as expected monetary value, risk, decision trees and simulation studies. A global outlook for the industry sets the context.

    • Sydney Basin Field Trip

      An 8-day trip to the Sydney Basin in New South Wales is a capstone course applying many of the learnings from coursework in the first semester.  The trip examines outstanding coastal outcrops of Permian and Triassic age. Facies examined include glaciomarine, coal-bearing, fluvial, coastal plain and estuarine strata.  The trip allows students to develop an understanding of the  depositional and sequence stratigraphic history of the basin and relate it to the regional tectonic and paleoclimatic controls.  Discussions throughout the trip emphasize applications to understanding the subsurface, reservoir geometries and the evolution of petroleum systems.  Prior to the trip students examine and interpret well logs and core photos of parts of the succession  - their interpretations can then be compared and contrasted with new observations and interpretations in the field.

    Australian School of Petroleum



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