Course content

The carbon cycle results in the fixation of carbon dioxide in living organisms, and under specific conditions, accumulation of organic matter (OM) in rocks - some times in the form of source rocks (SRs) and coal. This process has occurred on the planet for more than 3.8 billion years, producing oxygen as a by-product, while steadily reducing atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide by the formation of carbonate rocks.

Sedimentary rocks include both carbonate rocks and siliciclastic rocks (shales/sandstones), and both can contain OM and SRs. These rock systems are central as a source for reduced carbon and constitute important parts of "Petroleum Systems". Source rocks (SRs) form oil and gas and are classified according to the quality and quantity of their organic content which is determined by organic productivity and the depositional conditions of the paleo-environment.

In this course, we seek process understanding concerning the carbon cycle, SR formation and maturation, oil and gas generation and migration. You shall be able to explain which factors are central to organic productivity and the formation of oil and gas, and also the occurrence of oil and gas in traps.

We study the application of GC-FID/MS, biomarker/geomarker data and stable isotope data, to source rocks, oil and gas. We look into the effects of the biodegradation of petroleum. The course also provides an introduction to how petroleum geochemical methods are used in oil and gas exploration, and also an understanding of how naturally occurring hydrocarbons are distributed in sedimentary systems.

Learning outcome

After taking this course, you will

  • be able to explain the carbon cycle, the formation of organic-rich sediments, kerogen plus generation and migration of oil and gas
  • understand and apply modern organic geochemical analytical methods in the context of "Petroleum Systems" - including the systematics concerning occurrences of oil and gas in basins
  • be able to discuss and explain how the most important factors determine if a trap contains oil versus gas - such as source rock type, maturity, migration and cap rock properties
  • have acquired a fundament for work with oil-oil, oil source, and oil-gas correlation
  • have a fundament for following this subject in research, and in exploration - alternatively in bioremediation/pollution
  • be able to understand the main factors concerning oil prices in a geopolitical context
  • be able to evaluate and present the essence of scientific papers to an audience

Admission to the course

Students admitted at UiO must apply for courses in Studentweb. Students enrolled in other Master's Degree Programmes can, on application, be admitted to the course if this is cleared by their own study programme.

Nordic citizens and applicants residing in the Nordic countries may apply to take this course as a single course student.

If you are not already enrolled as a student at UiO, please see our information about admission requirements and procedures for international applicants.

Some basic knowledge in chemistry would be helpful.

Overlapping courses


Teaching consists of 8 hours of lectures per week (4h+2h+2h). Extensive use of "hand-outs" and scientific papers is the nucleus of the teaching effort. Some class exercises in the identification of compounds in chromatograms from GC-FID, GC-MS (biomarkers), Rock-Eval and TOC methodology are provided.

Scientific papers will be discussed in the plenum. Students will, as part of their teaching, each present one paper from the syllabus.

Attendance at the first lecture is compulsory. Students who fail to meet are considered to have withdrawn from the course unless they have previously given notice to the Student administration (

We reserve the right to change the teaching form and examination of the course in semesters where 5 or fewer students have been admitted.


  • Presentation of a scientific paper must be approved before sitting for the written examination of the course.
  • A final written examination counts 100% towards the final grade.

It is possible to take the exam up to 3 times. If you withdraw from the exam after the deadline or during the exam, this will be counted as an examination attempt.

It will also be counted as 1 of the 3 attempts to sit the exam for this course if you sit the exam for one of the following courses:

Examination support material

Approved calculator

Language of examination

The examination text is given in English.

You may submit your response in Norwegian, Swedish, Danish or English.

Grading scale

Grades are awarded on a scale from A to F, where A is the best grade and F is a fail. Read more about the grading system.

Resit an examination

Students who can document a valid reason for absence from the regular examination are offered a postponed examination at the beginning of the next semester.

Re-scheduled examinations are not offered to students who withdraw during, or did not pass, the original examination.

Special examination arrangements, use of sources, explanations and appeals

See more about examinations at UiO

Last updated from FS (Common Student System) Aug. 20, 2022 8:18:42 AM

Facts about this course

Teaching language