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Training Structural Interpreters

Doug Goff
Chevron Energy Technology Company, Earth Science Department, Houston, TX, USA


Structural Geology (in fact most of Geology) is, in general, an experiential discipline. It is one of the few fields where the breadth of your knowledge is directly correlated to your exposure of different scenarios. So, the question that we must address in industry is how to train early career employees to recognize all the variability we see in geology without having worked all these scenarios? Over the past 4 years, Chevron's Structural Geology team has revamped our training, and made a concerted effort to push out training to early career geoscientists. We have learned several things from this effort:

  1. Teach a methodology: focus on making observations in data that drive interpretation (separate observation from interpretation).
  2. Teach some "rules": The Geometry and Kinematics of Fault-Related Folding is a prime example of this.
  3. Keep it simple: most people will only remember a handful of concepts or rules, so choose wisely and hammer the important ones home.
  4. Keep it on paper: although we all work in a 3-D computer-based environment, we frequently get bogged down when we try to teach computer-based courses. Working on paper allows us to focus on the "geology" and not the "digital environment". Getting it right in 2-D before you start jump to 3-D is a basic tenet of our approach.

Then, how do we make the jump to 3-Dimensional Structural Interpretation and teach 3-D thinking?

  1. Develop exercises that require students to connect things in 3-D (even though the exercise may be paper based) and see the relationships required between 2-D views of the data.
  2. Take the students to the field: although sometimes it is difficult to demonstrate the value of looking at field analogs, often we have seen a step-wise change in a person's understanding of scale and complexity after showing them field examples.
On the job training: often it is up to the interpreter to make the leap from 2-D knowledge to 3-Dimensional interpretation and visualization. Mentoring, providing interactive "wiki's" and videos of workflows, all try to bridge the gap between 2-D concepts and 3-D thinking.


AAPG Search and Discovery Article #120140© 2014 AAPG Hedberg Conference 3D Structural Geologic Interpretation: Earth, Mind and Machine, June 23-27, 2013, Reno, Nevada