Petroleum Geology

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  • Computing Facilities: The Scientific Computing Lab and Geology Research Lab have a combined 20 workstations for highly-interactive instruction and use the most up-to-date industry software and data sets.
     
  • Outdoor Laboratory: The Gunnison Valley provides a wide range of opportunities for unique field experiences and undergraduate research.
     
  • Research Funding: The Bartleson-Prather Fund provides students scholarships and research stipends. 

Faculty & Staff

Faculty

Brad Burton, Ph.D. headshot
Rady Chair in Petroleum Geology
Phone: 970.943.2252
Office Location: Hurst Hall 16A
James Coogan, Ph.D. headshot
Adjunct Professor of Geology
Phone: 970.943.3425
Office Location:
Elizabeth Petrie, Ph.D. headshot
Moncrief Chair in Petroleum Geology
Phone: 970.943.2117
Office Location: Hurst Hall 16D

Courses

FOR REQUIRED COURSES AND DEGREE PLANS, VISIT THE OFFICIAL UNIVERSITY CATALOG. This is a sample of courses offered by Western Colorado University. To ensure the courses you need are offered during the current semester, please visit the university course search.

 CHEM 111 - General Chemistry I (3 credits)

An introductory course designed for science majors focusing on principles and applications of chemistry. Topics covered in this course are stoichiometry, bonding models, intermolecular forces, and periodic trends. Prerequisite or corequisite: MATH 140 or Accuplacer college-level mathematics test score of 85 or above, ACT math score of 24 or above, or instructor permission.

 CHEM 112 - General Chemistry Laboratory I (1 credits)

An introduction to basic laboratory techniques of inorganic chemistry correlating with CHEM 111. Experiments emphasize techniques, instrumentation, and solution chemistry. Laboratory note bookkeeping and the safe handling and disposal of laboratory chemicals are also stressed. Additional course fee applies. Co-requisite: CHEM 111.

 CHEM 113 - General Chemistry II (3 credits)

A continuation of CHEM 111. Topics covered are thermodynamics, kinetics, equilibrium, electrochemistry, and nuclear chemistry. Additional course fee applies. Prerequisite: CHEM 111 with a minimum grade of C-.

 CHEM 114 - General Chemistry Laboratory II (1 credits)

A continuation of CHEM 112. An introduction to basic laboratory techniques of inorganic chemistry correlating with CHEM 113. Experiments emphasize techniques, instrumentation, and solution chemistry. Laboratory notebook keeping and the safe handling and disposal of laboratory chemicals are also stressed. Prerequisite: CHEM 112. Corequisite: CHEM 113.

 GEOL 101 - Physical Geology (3 credits)

An introductory class that emphasizes the environmental aspects of geology. The course covers the basic principles of physical geology, such as minerals, rocks, plate tectonics, earthquakes, volcanoes, and origin of landscapes by mass wasting, rivers, glaciers, ground water, and nearshore processes. Throughout this course, focus is on the effect of geology on human society through the study of geologic hazards, energy resources, and mineral resources.

 GEOL 105 - Physical Geology Laboratory (1 credits)

An introduction to identification of minerals and rocks and a discussion of their genesis followed by a study of landscapes formed by mass wasting, rivers, glaciers, ground water, and nearshore processes. Many of these principles are observed on local field trips. Additional course fee applies. Prerequisite or corequisite: GEOL 101.

 GEOL 201 - Historical Geology (with laboratory) (4 credits)

A study of the interpretation of the geologic history, structure, and evolution of the Earth with emphasis on methods and concepts rather than factual information. Colorado geologic history and various principles are observed during three or four field trips. Topics and concepts such as geophysics, continental drift, and plate tectonics are integrated into discussions of Earth history. Additional course fee applies. Prerequisites: GEOL 101 and GEOL 105.

 GEOL 302 - Geoscience Writing (2 credits)

An introduction to the proper methods and accepted formats of written, graphical, and oral communication in the geological sciences. These skills are addressed through critical evaluation and discussion of the geological literature, by writing reports, review papers and research proposals, and giving oral presentations. Prerequisites: ENG 102 with a grade of "C-" or above and GEOL 201. Corequisite: GEOL 310.

 GEOL 305 - Mineralogy (with laboratory) (4 credits)

An introduction to the study of minerals. Important topics include the crystallography, crystal chemistry, and optics of important rock and ore forming minerals. Emphasis is placed on the crystal chemistry and stability of major silicate mineral groups. The laboratory emphasizes the field identification of minerals and the application of optics to the identification of minerals in thin section. Additional course fee applies. Prerequisites: GEOL 101, GEOL 105, MATH 141. Prerequisite or corequisite: CHEM 111 and CHEM 112.

 GEOL 310 - Stratigraphy and Sedimentation (with laboratory) (4 credits)

A study of the basic principles and origins of sedimentary rock units. Topics studied include sub-division of the geologic column and geologic time, depositional systems, stratigraphic nomenclature and rules, principles of correlation, including a review of modern geophysical, geochemical, and chronostratigraphic methods, biostratigraphy, and event stratigraphy. Laboratory includes measurement of sections, examination of depositional systems in the field, and surface and subsurface stratigraphic techniques, including geophysical-log interpretation and computer mapping. Additional course fee applies. Prerequisites: ENG 102 with a minimum grade of "C-," GEOL 201.

 GEOL 311 - Igneous and Metamorphic Petrology (with laboratory) (4 credits)

A study of igneous and metamorphic rocks, including their classification, field relations, tectonic setting, phase petrology, mineralogy, and geochemistry. The laboratory emphasizes both field identification of rocks and the use of petrographic microscopes. Several field trips are included. Additional course fee applies. Prerequisite: GEOL 305. Prerequisite or corequisite: CHEM 113 and CHEM 114

 GEOL 343 - Exploration Geophysics (3 credits)

Current geophysical techniques used in the exploration for, and development of, petroleum resources. Topics include: potential fields methods, thermochronology, refraction and reflection seismic theory and application, an introduction to quantitative geophysics, microseismic, and forward and reverse modeling. Laboratory projects use industry standard geophysical data and software to solve problems in petroleum exploration and development. Additional course fee applies. Prerequisite: GEOL 310, Prerequisites or Corequisites: GEOL 345; and either PHYS 170 or PHYS 200.

 GEOL 345 - Structural Geology (with laboratory) (4 credits)

A study of the deformation of the Earth's crust. The course begins with a study of the forces and movements within the crust which cause folding and faulting of rocks and a description of the resulting structures. These topics are followed by an analysis of the regional tectonic patterns of the Earth's surface and theories for their origin. Additional course fee applies. Prerequisite: GEOL 201 with a minimum grade of "C-" and MATH 141.

 GEOL 346 - Subsurface Geology (with laboratory) (4 credits)

An advanced undergraduate course in subsurface structural and stratigraphic methods pertinent to petroleum, groundwater, environmental, and tectonics investigations. Traditional and computer-assisted techniques are used. Students gain experience in integrating surface geology with subsurface well and geophysical data, understanding and managing subsurface data types, the principles and application of petrophysics, subsurface mapping methods, core and cuttings description and interpretation, and case studies of oil and gas fields. Field exercises emphasize the integration of surface and subsurface data. Additional course fee applies. Prerequisite: GEOL 343. Prerequisite or corequisite: GEOL 345.

 GEOL 450 - Field Geology (4 credits)

An emphasis on field observation, proper geologic mapping techniques on both maps, aerial photos, and interpretation and synthesis of field data into a report. Different geologic terrains in Colorado or other states are examined. Ideally, this course should be taken during the Summer semester, immediately prior to the senior year. Additional course fee applies. Prerequisites: GEOL 310 and GEOL 345; or instructor permission.

 GEOL 455 - Petroleum Geology (4 credits)

The petroleum system and modern exploration techniques including detailed study of petroleum source rocks, their deposition, thermal maturation and the chemical and physical characteristics of hydrocarbons, hydrocarbon migration, accumulation and retention, reservoir types and properties. Current techniques used in hydrocarbon exploration and resource assessment are taught through laboratory projects using real-world data and industry standard software tools. Additional course fee applies. Prerequisite: GEOL 346.

 GEOL 456 - Petroleum Geology of Unconventional Resources (with laboratory) (4 credits)

The geology of unconventional resources, the identification and mapping of resource plays, a survey of current industry development and resource estimation techniques, and an introduction to play and project economics. Unconventional and emerging petroleum plays including shale reservoirs for oil and gas, heavy oil and bitumen deposits, coal bed methane, and hybrid reservoirs are emphasized. Projects include play mapping and analysis, rock mechanics, reservoir stimulation and EOR techniques, decline curve analysis and forecasting, and integrate sustainability and environment/stakeholder management best practices. Prerequisite: GEOL 346.

 GEOL 465 - Research in Basin Analysis (with laboratory) (3 credits)

A study of sedimentary processes and environments, including the tectonic origin of sedimentary basins. This includes the most common terrestrial and marine depositional systems and their relationships. A strong emphasis is placed on field relations and research on the sedimentary rocks of Western Colorado and the Colorado Plateau. The course is topical in nature and requires individual and/or group research projects through the study of the geologic literature, the collection of geologic data in the field, and the presentation of results. Additional course fee applies. Prerequisites: GEOL 310 and GEOL 345.

 MATH 151 - Calculus I (4 credits)

A study of differential calculus, including limits, continuous functions, Intermediate Value Theorem, tangents, linear approximation, inverse functions, implicit differentiation, extreme values and the Mean Value Theorem. This course also introduces Integral calculus including anti-derivatives, definite integrals, and the Fundamental Theorem of Calculus. Prerequisite: ACT math score of 27 or above; SAT math score of 630 or above; MATH 141 with a minimum grade of C-; or Accuplacer university-level mathematics test with a score of 95 or above. GT-MA1

 MATH 251 - Calculus II (4 credits)

Topics include techniques of integration, area computations, improper integrals, infinite series and various convergence tests, power series, Taylor's Formula, polar coordinates, and parametric curves. Prerequisite: MATH 151 with a minimum grade of "C-."

 PHYS 170 - Principles of Physics I (with laboratory) (4 credits)

A quantitative lecture and laboratory introduction to the basic principles of physics. Topics covered include the motions of particles, forces in nature, field concepts, energy, conservation laws, and many-particle systems. A mathematical proficiency at the level of college algebra is recommended. Additional course fee applies. Prerequisites: Accuplacer College-Level Mathematics test score of 95 or above, or MATH 141. GT-SC1

 PHYS 171 - Principles of Physics II (with laboratory) (4 credits)

A continuation of PHYS 170 dealing with electromagnetism, light, thermodynamics,and the atomic structure of matter. Additional course fee applies. Prerequisite: PHYS 170.

 PHYS 200 - General Physics I (with laboratory) (4 credits)

A quantitative lecture and laboratory introduction to the basic principles of physics, using the concepts of calculus as a tool. Topics covered include the motions of particles, forces in nature, field concepts, energy, conservation laws, many-particle systems, and thermodynamics. A student may not receive credit for both PHYS 170 and PHYS 200. Additional course fee applies. Prerequisite or Corequisite: MATH 151. GT-SC1

 PHYS 201 - General Physics II (with laboratory) (3 credits)

A continuation of PHYS 200 dealing with electromagnetism, light, and the atomic structure of matter. A student cannot receive credit for both PHYS 171 and 201. Additional course fee applies. Prerequisite: PHYS 200.

Overview

The Moncrief Petroleum Geology program is for students planning careers as geoscientists in the oil and gas industry, as well as careers in resource assessment and energy policy. Students have the opportunity to visit nearby oil and gas fields, study stunning geologic formations minutes from campus and work one-on-one with professors on independent research projects. 

The Program

The Petroleum Geology program teaches students how to interpret subsurface geologic and geophysical data, analyze petroleum exploration opportunities and be prepared to put these skills to work in the petroleum industry. Industry standard software is integrated throughout the program, meaning students graduate with the skills necessary for graduate school or entry-level positions in the oil and gas industry.

Generous donations from legendary oilman Tex Moncrief Jr. and Western graduate Paul M. Rady, Chairman and CEO of Antero Resources, provide funding for the Petroleum Geology program and have endowed two chair positions. The program fosters professional contacts with industry geoscientists, promotes internships, assists students in applying to graduate programs and offers students a chance to engage in fundamental and applied research.

Careers & Opportunities

Places where Mountaineers now work:

  • Antero Resources
  • Bureau of Land Management
  • Columbine Logging
  • Crescent Point Energy
  • GMT Exploration
  • IHS Markit
  • Schlumberger
  • U.S. Forest Service

Our graduates are highly qualified for entry-level work in the industry or for continued study; more than half of Western’s Petroleum Geology graduates go on to graduate school. Graduate schools Mountaineers have attended:

  • Colorado School of Mines
  • Colorado State University
  • Texas Christian University
  • University of Idaho
  • University of Kansas
  • University of Louisiana
  • University of Washington
  • University of Texas-Austin

Learn More 

Reach out to Elizabeth Petrie, Ph.D. or Brad Burton, Ph.D. for more information.