REVIEW: Purbeck Lacustrine Limestones Field Trip

Review by Dean Baker, Consultant Geoscientist, RISC Advisory

The Late Jurassic Purbeck carbonates form some of the most iconic outcrop exposures in the UK. The aim of this fieldtrip was to present new work on the Purbeck Group resulting from two 3 year industry funded PhD projects at Royal Holloway University, by Arnaud Gallois and Estanislao Kozlowski, supported by Professor Dan Bosence.

On Saturday morning, fuelled by natural enthusiasm (and a full English breakfast!), under glorious September sunshine, we walked to our first locality, Tout Quarry, Isle of Portland. Dan and Arnaud introduced the stratigraphic succession as we observed the boundary between the marine carbonates of the Portland Limestone Group (Tithonian Age) and the non-marine Purbeck Limestones (Lulworth Formation – Tithonian to Barriasian Age). The Purbeck Limestones, the main focus of the trip, were deposited in a shallow lake on the western margin of the Wessex Basin during the late syn-rift phase of basin evolution.

The remainder of the first day was spent at the iconic Lulworth Cove locality. Here we examined the succession in detail, familiarising ourselves with the informal subdivision of the Mupe Member (Lulworth Formation) into high-frequency lacustrine cycles named Skull Cap, Hard Cap and Soft Cap, each separated by thin, irregularly-bedded paleosols. Of particular interest were the thrombolytic microbial mounds, with their irregular geometries and complex interplay with intraclastic peloidal packstone-grainstone intermound facies.

Discussions centred on the variability in geometry and reservoir quality of mound and intermound facies and the complexity in characterising these features in 3D reservoir models. Also, comparisons were drawn with pre-salt basins offshore Brazil and Angola with similarities recognised in basin size, equivalent syn-rift setting, depositional age and some similarity in facies, particularly the highly porous thrombolytic mounds and less porous intermound facies. It was recognised that further study would be required to assess the suitability of the Purbeck Limestones as analogues for South Atlantic pre-salt.

After a brief lunch stop our next locality was the famous ‘fossil forest’ which shows stunning examples of microbial mound formation around in-situ trees that later decayed leaving ‘doughnut’ shaped microbial mounds preserved.

Our final locality for the day was ‘Bacon Hole’ in Mupe Bay. Here we observed the transition from the upper Lulworth Formation to the overlying (younger) Durlston Formation, representing changes in depositional environment from brackish to hypersaline to freshwater. The restrictive environmental conditions were highlighted by distinctive low diversity mollusc- and gastropod-rich shell-beds. After returning to the Isle of Portland the group reassembled in the evening for a traditional pub meal and cold beverage (or two!).

Day 2 brought more sunshine and at our first locality, Portland Bill, we were able to see close-up the transition between the marine Portland Limestones which are thick-bedded oolitic grainstones containing oyster shells, in contrast to the relatively thin-bedded, microbialite-dominated, lacustrine carbonates of the Lower Purbeck Group.

The last locality at God Nore/Freshwater Bay showed further striking instances of irregular microbial mounds in the lower Purbeck. In addition, we observed more examples of thrombolytic microbial mound formation around in-situ trees. In one example, a concentric arrangement of burrowed peloidal packstone with a thrombolite framework on the upper surface can be observed around a central tree mould.

On behalf of myself and the field group I would like to thank Arnaud and Dan for running an excellent fieldtrip, perfectly mixing humour and expert knowledge to deliver an engaging fieldtrip.

On a personal note, as a sedimentologist and geomodeller by background, one thing that always resonates with me after a field trip is the immeasurable value of seeing rocks in the field; being able to visualise the scale and variability of geology in three dimensions. In my opinion, for this reason alone (in addition to fantastic learning, networking and socialising opportunities), it is well worth making the effort to leave the computer screen behind and get out into the field from time to time.




Choosing the right partners is key

Colin Percival - invisibleAs I come towards the end of my year as President I would like to thank all the PESGB office staff and the PESGB Council for their support and advice throughout the year. It has been a very challenging year for the industry and the Society, but an extremely rewarding year for me personally, which has confirmed what a great organisation the PESGB is. I have had the chance to work with some great people and meet many new and old acquaintances.

The oil and gas industry is a joint venture business and a key part of our role is working with people from other companies as well as regulators, trade associations and ministries. The last two years have been particularly difficult in getting alignment in many joint ventures, with too much focus on legal agreements and contracts rather than relationships. This has resulted in a lot of tension between joint venture partners which has fed through to the supply chain with the focus on halting or deferring activity or renegotiating contracts. It has brought into sharp focus that choosing the right partners is one of the most important things we do! Inevitably things often change on this front with companies being taken over and the new owners having a different set of priorities from the old. Rarely does a takeover result in closer alignment in joint ventures although it can provide more security regarding financing.

This downturn has been notable for the lack of takeovers of financially distressed oil and gas companies. Certainly in the North Sea this has been due to many distressed companies being cashflow or NPV negative or both at current oil and gas prices. Even the most optimistic will find it tough to justify purchasing a company with negative cashflow or value, where the most significant change will be driven by oil and gas prices. The result is a that a whole raft of companies have gone bust with their licence interests being acquired by the other joint venture participants where necessary or the licences have been relinquished as the entire joint venture has decided to abandon joint operations. In some cases parts of the portfolio of the failed company have found a buyer, but full corporate acquisitions have been pretty rare. The administrators have been keen to ensure that any potential buyer takes some of the baggage within the portfolio along with anything that actually has value and ideally positive cashflow.

Most of the corporate reorganisations have been completed or are well advanced. Certainly in the UK there have been few additions to the casualty list over the last few months and the worst seems to be over. I therefore look forward to filing away the contracts and agreements and once more focussing on relationships. It will be a delight to get back to some positive activity like drilling a well or developing a field rather than trawling over another joint operating agreement to check if everyone is playing by the rules and issuing formal notices. Hopefully this downturn will lead to a more collaborative approach to unlocking the significant remaining potential that undoubtedly exists in the North Sea.
Most UK industries have a universally recognised professional qualification, such as Chartership, which is required before that person achieving it can perform specific tasks. Whilst we are familiar with chartered engineers and accountants there is no requirement for a professional qualification in the oil industry, despite the fact that we work on safety critical tasks. A work group of senior professionals, the UKOGC, is now working to redress this imbalance, for the operational geoscience (operations and wellsite geologists, mudlogging and PPFG) disciplines. They have the broad support of the Geological Society and HSE and are working to spread the message through the industry to try to deliver a working system. The PESGB support this initiative. If you are interested in finding out more please contact one of the working group (Pat Spicer, Christine Telford, David Harrison, Bob Fagg, Tim Herrett, Martin Gardner and Richard Smout) or go to the group’s LinkedIn page “UK Operational Geoscience Competency Initiative” or

This month sees PETEX being held at ExCeL from the 15th to the 17th November. This will be an event not to be missed for those with reasonable access to ExCeL, London. If you are attending, I look forward to seeing you there.

PETEX 2016, 15-17 November 2016, ExCeL London – Introducing the members of the PETEX Forum panel, the main conference highlight on Thursday, 17 November

PETEX Forum! 

The 26th edition of PETEX will be witness to one of the most interesting and interactive debate to date. The PETEX Forum, which has been a constant feature at our shows, attracting an ever growing audience, will return on the final day of the conference, on Thursday 17 November.

This year, the topic is: What is the new normal? Just another cycle or a structural change in the hydrocarbon industry. 

Promising a vibrant, provocative and stimulating discussion on a range of topics: redefining Corporate strategies, the Energy mix, the crew change, the Industry’s response to intense pressure across the sector, the demise of some Small Caps, bankruptcy of other Industry instiutions, the impact of increasing Global/Social conscience, and retrenching by  the Service Sector, the Forum will be headlined by key Industry figures.

Format and Panel Members

Join us for an exciting ‘Question Time’-style of panel debate. The Panel will be Chaired by Professor Iain Stewart and comprise representatives from across the Industry, including the E&P and Service Sector, Academia, The City and Media/Analysts. Attendees will be encouraged to submit questions to the panel using our interactive technology. You can also submit your question in advance by email at with the subject PETEX Forum Question, and some lucky few will be chosen to read their questions out on the morning. Please make sure to include your mobile number in the email so we can get in touch with you before the show.

The Panel will be formed of:

  • Iain Stewart (Chairman)-Director of the Sustainable Earth Institute; Plymouth University
  • Oswald Clint (Analyst)-Senior Research Analyst; AB Bernstein
  • Jon Fitzpatrick (City/Broker)-Executive Director; Gneiss Energy Ltd
  • Nick Fretwell (Major Oil Company)-Vice President; Total E&P
  • Francis Gugen (Service Sector)-Chairman; PGS, IGas Energy and Chrysaor
  • Julian Lee (Media/Strategist)-Oil Strategist; Bloomberg
  • Oonagh Werngren (Former OGA)

To see the full bios, click here.


For a chance to take part in the PETEX Forum, the main conference, the exhibition as well as all the other amazing features of this year’s show, visit our website and register today!

OPEN TODAY: The Etches Collection, Kimmeridge, Dorset


Article by Neil Frewin

Nestled between the hills of the Isle of Purbeck and the English Channel is the small village of Kimmeridge, which lends its name to a more significant time period well known to petroleum geologists both in the UK, and globally. The coastal outcrop of the Upper Jurassic Kimmeridge Clay extends east and west of the village and is a frequent stop on any field trip for geoscientists wanting a better view of the principle source rock for fields scattered far to the east in the North Sea.

For the study of Jurassic fauna, the more renowned outcrops of the stratigraphically older Blue Lias (at Lyme Regis for example) yield a higher volume of fossils. However, Kimmeridge plumber and amateur palaeontologist Steve Etches has amassed a collection of over 2000 individual specimens from Kimmeridge-aged strata over 30 years of patient excavation and preparation.

This rich collection has now made the transition from Steve’s living room to a newly-built, £5 million facility in the village, which opens today for the first time.

What is striking about this collection is not only the volume and quality of specimens, but also a unique study of a 155 million year old ecosystem, life and death carefully interpreted from evidence and carefully displayed for visitors of all ages to learn from and interact with. Finely preserved examples of fish, some completely new species, are set alongside marine reptiles and molluscs. Ammonites are described with their eggs, providing a rare insight to their reproductive systems, whilst the remains large marine reptiles show the scars of predation. The static exhibition is roofed by a CGI-rendering of a Jurassic ocean.

For any petroleum geologist, a visit to the south coast of Dorset will be rewarded by this fine exhibition complemented by a visit to the nearby outcrops themselves.

The Collection and its Trustees are looking at all forms of sponsorship. In addition to the exhibition, the facility houses meeting rooms for workshops and small conferences, which can be hired. The Collection aims to extend its own museum with visiting exhibits, educational visits for schools and oil industry talks / field trips.

The PESGB will welcome Steve and colleagues to the PETEX 2016 exhibition next month to present the collection to attendees.

Visit the Etches Collection at Kimmeridge (postal code BH20 SPE) from Friday 21st October. Open Tuesday to Sunday, 10am-5pm. All details on website

Steve on the BBC


REVIEW: Petroleum Geology of NE England Field Trip – Mid North Sea High Analogue

Review by Andrew Rodda, DrillingInfo

In the cold mid-October on the NE coast, geologists from far and wide (Aberdeen and London mostly) arrived at the Yorkshire town of Whitby to look at Mid North Sea High analogues of the soon to close (26 October 2016) 29th Licensing Round. The trip was led by Durham University’s Professor Jon Gluyas, Dr Jonny Imber & Professor Andy Aplin; throughout the whole weekend their knowledge proved invaluable and ignited some great discussions. On behalf of everyone who attended the event, we would like to say a very big thank you to them for providing such an insightful and enjoyable weekend.

The surprising dry and somewhat sunny day started with looking at the potential source rock in the Mid North Sea High. The Early Jurassic Cleveland Basin, Upper Lias Whitby Mudstone Formation was a 105m thick, dark-grey section abundant in shelly fossils. As fresh surfaces from the cliff face were investigated, the striking, unmistakable smell of hydrocarbons was released in to the air. The formation was deposited in poorly oxygenated bottom waters, which have resulted in TOCs of up to 18%. Some caverns have been dug out of the cliff in search of the precious gemstone ‘jet’ derived from decaying wood, sold in the local gem shops.

Next, we climbed 320m up Roseberry Topping in the North Yorkshire Moors. The peak represents a resistant cap of Middle Jurassic Saltwick Formation sandstone, which lies unconformably above the Whitby Formation. As an aside to the licensing round, the faulting in the area was discussed in relation to the prospect of shale fracking, and the day was nicely rounded off with fish and chips.

Sunday saw the rain and winds close in, which the Aberdeen residents are all too familiar with. The cyclic limestones and dolomites of the Permian Zechstein Basin, which have been proven as producing oil and gas reservoirs across offshore Netherlands and into continental Europe were assessed. The Quarrington Old Quarry was also viewed from a distance to observe the Yellow Sandstone-Raisby Formations which gave us a chance to consider them as a potential reservoir rock in the Mid North Sea High. Some geologists amongst us had also done some work on the released OGA funded seismic data available on the Mid North Sea High, and were enthused by the prospect of exploring these potential reservoirs.

The final stop of the trip was Seaham Harbour, which is cut into the Permian Zechstein Seaham Formation, giving an example of the boundaries and structural features in the Zechstein Basin. At this point, the tide was ferociously crashing against the shoreline and we parted our separate ways.


Join the PESGB North West Branch for socials and discussion this Thursday

“A new, non-statistical, direction for quantitative stratigraphy”
With Graham Potts from the University of Liverpool

Thursday 20 October
Upstairs in the Royal Cambrian Academy, Crown Lane, Conwy, LL32 8AN (located behind Plas Mawr
Talk commences at 18:30, refreshments available from 18:00

Over recent decades quantitative stratigraphy has followed a series of directions that are, in general, statistical.  In this talk an alternative non-statistical approach will be presented that can be used to analyse and predict the distributions of vertical sequences both onshore and offshore.

A series of relatively simple equations has been developed that produce realistic, spatially complex patterns of stratigraphy. From these equations, a graphical approach has been developed which can be used to both interpolate and extrapolate vertical sequences in and around the original stratigraphical data.  Not only does this approach enable valid sequences to be determined but it also allows alternatives to be explored with relative ease.  Thus, well prognosis can be placed on a more rigorous and hopefully successful basis.

Speaker Profile: Dr Graham Potts
Following graduation from the University of Leeds with a degree in Geological Sciences, Graham completed a doctorate, also in Leeds, on the origins of fold nappes.  He undertook a Natural Environment Research Fellowship at the University of Birmingham followed by a year as a lecturer in Structural Geology and Tectonics at the University of Oxford.  In 1985 he joined Robertson Research as a structural geologist where he worked on several offshore multi-client projects, mainly in the UKCS, and onshore studies in North Africa, principally Morocco.  In 1987 he was appointed as lecturer in Structural Geology at the University of Liverpool.  In addition to his teaching duties at undergraduate and postgraduate level he has completed research on a variety of topics, most recently on the timing of deformations and fracture processes.  Fieldwork has been undertaken in a wide variety of locations including Pakistan, Egypt, South Africa and Southern England.  This work has led to a renewed interest in stratigraphy and stratigraphical methods.

Join us for the second Aberdeen Surviving the Downturn workshop next week where the Job Centre will advise on their Transition Fund for Training!

Tuesday 25 October 2016
The Copthorne Hotel from 10.30-12.30

Refreshments will be provided

 Led by Andrea Pearce (The Create Network)

Andrea Pearce is an experienced Business Psychologist who has worked with many people who want to find work, or change careers. She is delivering a series of 2 hour workshops for PESGB to inspire and motivate through the current downturn, covering helpful areas such as influencing mindset and self-belief; recognising personal values and transferrable skills; developing networks and accessing/influencing the unseen job market; empowering to tell and sell influential stories, including through social media; making an impact at interviews; and keeping motivated through set-backs.

Each workshop covers one or two of these areas, using a mixture of individual, pair and group activities to keep things interesting and fun. Even more importantly will be the opportunity to get to know each other better, networking and building a stronger support group. All the activities and tools are proven to work, both through research studies, and more meaningfully, people who use these tools go on to find work or more fulfilling careers. You will be challenged to think differently, will go away with new tools and ways of thinking to try out, and will also have fun!

All the workshops will build on the previous ones, but can also be attended as stand-alone sessions.

“Let perseverance be your engine and hope your fuel” – don’t be alone through these tough times – come along and connect with other people, share experiences and ideas towards getting back into work, build back up your self-esteem and motivation. Andrea will be leading discussions and activities around creating a positive ‘now’; recognising and framing transferrable skills; influencing through more than just your CV; and building your own support team.

In addition to this, the Job Centre will be coming to do a talk about the Transition Fund for training which is up to £4,000 for work related training.

Click Here to Register now! 

Showcase your Free Training Spaces or Free Events at PETEX 2016

Article by Deirdre O’Donnell, Working Smart Ltd

Raise your Profile by supporting Industry Graduates and Unemployed

PETEX 2016 Conference, organised by the PESGB (Petroleum Exploration Society of Great Britain) is taking place at ExCeL London on the 15-17 November 2016.

The conference will attract in excess of 200 graduates predominately from our leading UK universities and many hundred unemployed. Book-4 Limited will be showcasing free spaces on training courses or free events at PETEX, aimed primary for these groups.  This provides a great opportunity for event providers to market their free events/spaces at no charge to attendees, thereby raising their Company profile and awareness and support of this initiative.

We recognise that training and development will be of paramount importance in maintaining a sustainable workforce in the future. Book-4 is the first consolidated marketplace for the marketing and management of a broad range of training courses and events in the Oil and Gas industry. Advertising is free and the portal incorporates a host of functionality that mimics today’s online buying behavioural patterns including filtered search capabilities, wish lists, alert system, e-messaging, user reviews and two-way feedback and much more.

Some Companies are kindly offering free workshops, webinars on workflows, data management or specific technical subjects, free spaces on scheduled courses or attractive discounts on courses for graduates and unemployed. All is very welcome and we will be actively demonstrating these goodwill gestures at PETEX.

As PETEX is fast approaching, I would appreciate hearing from you as soon as possible. If you would like a demonstration of the Book-4 in advance of deciding, I am happy to do so (via internet).

Thanking you for your time in reading the above and I look forward to hearing from you and hopefully receiving your support.

Pitch your Prospect: Simwell Resources

Licence P2256 and P2300: Zechstein Potential in the SNS


The blocks are located within the Permian Zechstein carbonate play fairway promoted by the Oil and Gas Authority at the 2015 PROSPEX conference. Leads have been identified within the Zechstein Hauptdolomit (Z2) Formation with individual lead resources of up c. 200 bcf. The blocks also have the potential to extend the Lower Carboniferous play fairway proven in the Breagh and Crosgan Fields. Individual Carboniferous prospects in the Fell Sandstone and Scremerston Sandstone Formations have prospective resources of up to 2.5 tcf.

The lower Zechstein (Z2) Hauptdolomit carbonate play has long been successful in the Polish and German margins of the Southern Permian Basin but is woefully underexplored in the offshore UK sector, even though there have been numerous encouraging well results. Mapping on the current 2D seismic has identified 8 Hauptdolomit leads represented by carbonate build-ups with thicknesses in excess of 750ft.

For further information download the flyer from and visit Simwell at PROSPEX 2016 on Booth 14

Click here to register your place

To promote, for the public benefit, education in the scientific and technical aspects of petroleum exploration