AG-822 Fold and Thrust Belts and Foreland Basin Systems (10 ECTS)






October 15, 2023


Spring semester (April - May), every second year. Next course: 2024.

AG-322 students on excursion in Nordenskiöld Land. Photo: Aleksandra Smyrak-Sikora/UNIS.

Grade:Letter grade (A through F)
Course Cost:Fieldwork, NOK 1200–1400 (6–7 days x NOK 200 per day)
Course Capacity Min/Max:10/20 students (AG-322/822 in total)
Language of instruction:English
Examination support material:Bilingual dictionary between English and mother tongue

Course requirements

Enrolment in a relevant PhD programme. Knowledge in structural geology and sedimentology.

Academic content

Fold and thrust belts and foreland basins are important petroleum provinces, which can be assessed through insight into their internal geometry and development. The course starts with a review of the most commonly observed structures in fold and thrust belts, focusing on the relationship between thrusting and folding. The principles behind construction of balanced cross-sections are discussed.

The next session addresses the link between the fold-thrust belt and deposition in the foreland basin system, emphasizing source to sink concepts. Thereafter, a session focuses on seismic expressions of fold-thrust structures and foreland basin geometries. The course is summarized by discussions on petroleum play concepts such as stratigraphic traps and fractured reservoirs. All sessions demonstrate key subjects through practical exercises, including team work on a sandbox analogue experiment.

The outstanding fold-thrust belt of Spitsbergen will be analysed and visited during excursions. Other discussed fold and thrust belts will be the classical Zagros Belt (Iran/Iraq/Pakistan) and Cordilleran Belt (USA).

Learning outcomes

Upon completing the course, the students will:


  • Have broad knowledge of concepts of fold-thrust belts and their link to sedimentary systems of foreland basins.
  • Be able to explain common methods applied on fold-thrust belt analysis and cross-section construction, hereunder balancing techniques to assess structural styles.
  • Gain insight into the use of analogue experiments (sandbox).
  • Gain knowledge on how to interpret structures of fold-thrust belts in seismic images.


  • Be able to construct cross-sections of fold-thrust belts with sedimentary systems of foreland basins.
  • Be able to use common methods applied on fold-thrust belt analysis, hereunder balancing techniques to assess structural styles.
  • Learn how to use analogue experiments (sandbox).
  • Gain knowledge on how to assess seismic processing and derived quality of seismic sections of fold-thrust belts.

General competences

  • Competence in mastering the most important elements of geological research projects: such as assessing literature for information on studied area/objects, and carrying out field research with successful recording of field observations.
  • Competence in design and implementation of research tasks as part of a team, including analysing data, and communicating results to fellow students/scientists.
  • Strengthened ability to communicate and discuss current academic concepts and theories and how to approach new ideas regarding possible research venues.
  • The excursion develops competence in implementation of outdoor research in a sometimes extreme environment.

Learning activities

The course extends over ca 5 weeks including compulsory safety training, and is run in combination with AG-322.

Through initial lectures and seminars the students achieve a basic knowledge of fold-thrust belts and foreland basin systems. This academic basis enables them to work and observe independently during the interlinked excursions.

Excursions will visit key localities in the Spitsbergen fold-thrust belt (mainly Nordenskiöld Land), allowing direct observations of fold and thrust styles. Further, exposures of the Central Spitsbergen foreland basins will give first-hand experience with depositional systems in such tectonic settings.

All thematic sessions of the course demonstrate key subjects through practical exercises, including team work on a sandbox analogue experiment. The sandbox exercise will construct fold-thrust belts with various rheology’s (mechanical properties of materials) to illustrate the importance of rock characteristics and friction on structural style.

Throughout the course, there will be exercises allowing the use of practical approaches to the subject at hand. They cover critical assessments of published cross-sections and work with seismic sections.

A literature study based on individual reading of selected articles will be presented in a plenum seminar. There will be discussions around scientific findings and datasets.


  • Total lecture and seminar hours: 40 hours.
  • Total seminar hours: 10 hours.
  • Field excursions: 6–7 days.

Compulsory learning activities

  • All compulsory learning activities must be approved in order to sit the exam.
  • Field trips with exercises, modelling exercise, literature report and presentation(s). A pre-course assignment, to be verbally presented for the course participants.


  • All assessments must be passed in order to pass the course.
Percentage of final grade
Written exam 3 hours100%

Student life

Video of AG-322/822 excursion on the Governor of Svalbard’s ship “Polarsyssel”, April 2016