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Principles and Applications of Petroleum System Analysis

This lecture aims to give an overview of new applications in Petroleum System Analysis (PSA) and discuss the forthcoming changes in the hydrocarbon mix produced by the international oil companies. After an introduction of the fundamentals of PSA, the presentation focuses on the latest geochemical and basin modeling applications in the exploration and production of ‘conventional’ hydrocarbons. Several case histories will be shown to illustrate these concepts. Recent technological examples to support the development of ‘unconventional’ resources such as shale gas, acid gas and heavy oil will also be discussed.

Petroleum System Analysis is a relatively new specialization in the field of Petroleum Geology, it investigates the formation of hydrocarbons in the subsurface and tries to reconstruct the filling history of oil and gas accumulations in the subsurface. Increased interest in unconventional resources has created a new demand in the petroleum industry and rejuvenated research efforts in both the oil companies and the service industry. Furthermore, the search for the remaining conventional barrels has stimulated the demand for new technology, including contributions from geochemistry and basin modeling.

Originally, PSA was applied for exploration risk assessment only. Source rock presence and conversion were the domain of the geochemists, many of whom evolved from a background in coal petrography. Today, the oil generation process is still measured in terms of vitrinite reflectance – a unit which is adequate for measuring coalification, but is less suitable for describing the chemical conversion of a petroleum source rock into liquid hydrocarbons.

Hydrocarbon exploration is no longer the mainstay of the petroleum geochemist and geochemistry is applied in all phases of the E&P lifecycle. Applications now deal with field appraisal and development, with production surveillance, field abandonment and CO2 sequestration. With the accelerating global demand for energy and the increased proportion of unconventionals in the energy mix, the interest in geochemistry is likely to continue to grow.

Unfortunately the film of this talk is not available to watch online.


Peter Nederlof, Shell


Peter Nederlof is a geochemical consultant with Shell International E&P in Rijswijk, the Netherlands and has 30 years of industry experience in Europe, the Middle East and North America. Peter obtained a Ph.D. in Organic Chemistry from the University of Amsterdam and did a postdoctoral fellowship in Natural Product Chemistry with Professor William S. Johnson at Stanford University in California. Peter joined Shell’s Fine Chemicals Research Group in Amsterdam in 1979 and moved upstream to the Geochemistry Department of Shell Research in 1982. After 7 years in research, Peter worked as geochemical advisor in Shell Canada, Petroleum Development Oman and Shell Deepwater Development in New Orleans, before returning to Shell International E&P in early 2005. Peter served on the board of the European Association of Organic Geochemists from 1991-1998 and was a member of the first editorial board of GeoArabia when it was launched in 1995. Peter is a guest lecturer at the University of Utrecht and teaches training courses in Petroleum System Analysis. Peter and co-authors have received best paper awards from the American Association of Petroleum Geologists and Society of Petrophysicists and Well Log Analysts for their work on the Athel Formation in Oman.