Oil and Gas Exploration Project

Andrew M. Goodliffe
University of Alabama
This activity is a modified version of the original from: Friedman, G.M., Johnson, K.G., 1982, Exercises in Sedimentology, John Wiley & Sons
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Initial Publication Date: April 30, 2008


Students play the role of a geologist for an oil and gas exploration company. Given a budget and some basic geological information they are required to bid on leases, explore, drill, and hopefully produce at a profit.

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This exercise is used in an introductory undergraduate level geoscience course primarily taken by non-majors. The course title is Sustainable Earth.

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

The students will have been introduced in the lecture section of the class to the principles of basic hydrocarbon systems—source rock, reservoir, type of trap.

How the activity is situated in the course

The activity is the last lab class. The concept is that the students have to assimilate a lot of information to make informed decisions.


Content/concepts goals for this activity

Finding hydrocarbon reserves requires knowledge of the geology

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

Critical evaluation and integration of geological information

Other skills goals for this activity

Contouring, working as a team, cooperation between teams, basic financial skills.

Description of the activity/assignment

This exercise simulates the geologic, economic, and competitive business conditions usually encountered in oil and gas exploration. Each student is now a geologist with their own exploration and production corporation, and all corporations are competing to find oil and gas resources in the map area provided. Every section in this quadrangle has been drilled by oil companies in the past. Everyone agrees there must be oil and/or gas here, but no one has been successful in bringing in a producing well. Apparently none of the companies bothered to hire a geologist to analyze the data (weird!). They have gone bankrupt and the leases are all available for sale. Suddenly several corporations with geologists (you) appear on the scene, but with limited capital. The principal goal is to make as big a profit as possible for your corporation; therefore you must find the most oil and gas possible in a limited amount of time. To find oil and gas deposits, there are essentially 3 steps:
1) Gather information about the geology of the area and determine areas that are potential traps
2) Make bids on the land that you determine has high potential
3) Drill wells to see if you are correct

Determining whether students have met the goals

They have made money at the end of the assignment!

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