Professor John Howell

Professor John Howell
PhD (Geology), Bsc(Hons), FGS

Chair in Geology & Petroleum Geology

Professor John Howell
Professor John Howell

Contact Details

work +44 (0)1224 272606
The University of Aberdeen Geology & Petroleum Geology
Meston Building,
Kings College,


Originally from Wales, John did a degree at the University of Cardiff, followed by a PhD at the University of Birmingham. He then spent 10 years in the University of Liverpool as a researcher and junior faculty member working with the StratGroup. He moved to Norway in 2002 and lived in Bergen until 2012. During that time he worked in the Department of Earth Sciences and UniCIPR where he founded the Virtual Outcrop Geology Group. He was also one of the founders of Rocksource ASA an independent Norwegian E&P Company, where he worked in senior managment for 6 years.

Since 2012 he has been a Professor at the University of Aberdeen. His current  research focuses on improved use of analogues for understanding reservoirs. In the past 25 years he has worked on outcrops from all over the World with special focus on the western USA. He has supervised over 30 PhD students, published more than a 130 papers and edited 5 books. He currently runs the SAFARI project, a collaboration between University of Aberdeen and Uni Bergen supported by 13 companies. Over the past 15 years he has pioneered the use of Virtual Outcrops, collected using lidar and more recently UAVs (drones), in the geosciences. 

He is passionate about outreach in the geosciences. He was a co-host on "The Big Monster Dig", a TV series on geology and palaeontology for C4 and Discovery. He also has numerous other TV and radio credits as a scientific expert.     


Research Overview

Current research areas include:

  • The developement of digital field methods in the geosciences; especially terrestrial LiDAR, UAVs (drones) and photogrammetry
  • The collection of analogue data for better subsurface models
  • Large scale studies of modern depositional systems as a key to understanding the subsurface
  • Reservoir modelling of geological outcrops
  • The geology of the Colorado Plateau, especially central and southern Utah
  • Sequence stratigraphy.   

Current Research

Safari Project - Large industry JIP in collaboration with UniCIPR in Bergen. 4 PhD students and several post-doc researchers supported by 14 comapnies and the Research Council of Norway

Aeolian reservoir analogues - JIP with DEA (Germany) working on various aeolian systems in the USA inlcuding the Page Sst in southern Utah/Arizona

Triassic Mudstones - Large JIP looking at the Central North Sea, 3 PhDs 



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  • A conceptual model for glaciogenic reservoirs: from landsystems to reservoir architecture

    Kurjanski, B., Rea, B. R., Spagnolo, M., Cornwell, D. G., Howell, J., Archer, S.

    Marine and Petroleum Geology, vol. 115, 104205

    Contributions to Journals: Articles

  • Depositional conditioning of three dimensional training images: Improving the reproduction and representation of architectural elements in sand-dominated fluvial reservoir models

    Mitten, A. J., Mullins, J., Pringle, J. K., Howell, J., Clarke, S. M.

    Marine and Petroleum Geology, vol. 113, 104156

    Contributions to Journals: Articles

  • Discussion of Yang et al. (2017, Acta Geologica Sinica 91:749–750) A new discovery of the Early Cretaceous supercritical hyperpycnal flow deposits on Lingshan Island, East China

    Shao, Z., Zhao, B., Howell, J., Luan, X., Maxwell, G., Ran, W., Liu, Z., Zhang, W.

    Geological Journal, vol. 55, no. 7, pp. 5508-5513

    Contributions to Journals: Articles

  • Fault-controlled dolostone geometries in a transgressive–regressive sequence stratigraphic framework

    Yao, S., Gomez-Rivas, E., Martín-Martín, J. D., Gómez-Gras, D., Travé, A., Griera, A., Howell, J. A.

    Sedimentology, vol. 67, no. 6, pp. 3290-3316

    Contributions to Journals: Articles

  • Liquefaction structures induced by the M5.7 earthquake on May 28, 2018 in Songyuan, Jilin Province, NE China and research implication

    Shao, Z. F., Zhong, J. H., Howell, J., Hao, B., Luan, X. W., Liu, Z. X., Ran, W. M., Zhang, Y. F., Yuan, H. Q., Liu, J. J., Ni, L. T., Song, G. X., Liu, J. L., Zhang, W. X., Zhao, B.

    Journal of Palaeogeography, vol. 9, 3

    Contributions to Journals: Articles

  • Predictable patterns in stacking and distribution of channelized fluvial sand bodies linked to channel mobility and avulsion processes

    Sahoo, H., Gani, M. R., Gani, N. D., Hampson, G. J., Howell, J. A., Storms, J. E., Martinius, A. W., Buckley, S. J.

    Geology, vol. 48, no. 9, pp. 903-907

    Contributions to Journals: Articles

  • Predicting river mouth location from delta front dip and clinoform dip in modern and ancient wave-dominated deltas

    Zimmer, E., Howell, J.


    Contributions to Journals: Articles

  • The influence of stratigraphy and facies distribution on reservoir quality and production performance in the Triassic Skagerrak Formation of the UK and Norwegian Central North Sea

    Gray, E., Hartley, A., Howell, J.

    Geological Society Special Publications , vol. 494

    Contributions to Journals: Articles

  • Tidal estuarine deposits of the transgressive Naturita Formation (Dakota Sandstone): San Rafael Swell, Utah, U.S.A.

    Phillips, S. P., Howell, J. A., Hartley, A. J., Chmielewska, M.

    Journal of Sedimentary Research, vol. 90, no. 8, pp. 777-795

    Contributions to Journals: Articles

  • UK Rockall prospectivity: re-awakening exploration in a frontier basin

    Broadley, L., Schofield, N., Jolley, D., Howell, J., Underhill, J. R.

    Petroleum Geoscience, vol. 26, no. 2, pp. 247-271

    Contributions to Journals: Articles

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