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OTC 23696

UK Atlantic Margin Exploration: Its Petroleum Geology and Associated


Technological Challenges
Martyn Quinn, Derek Ritchie, Robert Gatliff, Howard Johnson and Geoff Kimbell. British Geological Survey
Copyright 2012, Offshore Technology Conference
This paper was prepared for presentation at the Offshore Technology Conference held in Houston, Texas, USA, 30 April3 May 2012.
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Abstract
The petroleum geology of UK Atlantic Margin presents a variety of technological challenges for
exploration of both established and new plays, developing new discoveries and maximising production
in existing fields. The first exploration well was drilled in the area in 1972 and over the next 40 years
new plays have been developed and established plays re-visited. Exploration and development has
required new technological advances in order to push boundaries both in terms of engineering in harsh
environments and also geophysical tools to enable an understanding of the geology and fluids held
within the rocks.
This paper focuses on the petroleum geology of the region and highlights technical challenges
generated as a result of the geology and examples of how these have been overcome by application of
innovative techniques.
Under-explored areas in the Rockall region present opportunities, but with risks and uncertainties
related to hydrocarbon source, the presence of reservoir and traps, which could be mitigated by a
better geological understanding aided by improved seismic imaging, in particular sub-basalt imaging,
and remote sensing technology. Further challenges exist related to water depth, the extreme weather
conditions and the great distance to onshore installations.
INTRODUCTION
The UK Atlantic Margin extends for nearly 2000 km from the Mre Basin in the north to the Rockall
Basin in the south and forms part of a passive margin bounded to the west and north-west by oceanic
crust of Cenozoic age (Figure 1). Oil exploration has taken place in the region for over 40 years but
only a small percentage of the UKCS blocks have been drilled. Exploration has focused in the FaroeShetland Basin area with only a few wells drilled to the south in the Rockall Basin. The area has three
producing oil and natural gas fields which, in terms of annual oil production, are in the Top ten of UK
hydrocarbon fields (Table 1). In addition, a large field development is underway which is hoped will
provide the infrastructure necessary to make several undeveloped accumulations economically viable.
Government estimates for undiscovered recoverable reserves west of Shetland range from a lower
value of around 400 million barrels to a median of about 1 billion barrels and upper value of nearly 2
billion barrels of oil (DECC 2011(a)).
Water depth in the region varies from around 2400 m to less than 100 m on intra-basinal highs.
Distances are great, with some prospective areas over 1000 km from shore-based facilities. The harsh
environment with strong currents and often severe weather is an immense challenge to conducting safe
and efficient operations. Exploration and development has stimulated technological innovation and
success in the latter has enabled exploration and development to progress.

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A proven petroleum system exists over large parts of the UK Atlantic Margin. Within the Faroe
Shetland Basin area (Figure 2), a long history of burial, deposition and uplift has matured and expelled
hydrocarbons from Middle and Upper Jurassic source rocks and provided reservoirs that range in age
and composition from fractured Archaean Lewisian gneiss to Eocene fan sands. Hydrocarbon
accumulations are found in structural, stratigraphic and combination traps.
However, uncertainties remain regarding aspects of the petroleum system. For example, the full
distribution of the Jurassic source rock is poorly understood, especially south of the Faroe-Shetland
Basin in the Rockall and Hatton areas, due mainly to limited seismic resolution and a lack of calibration
by well penetrations but also a full understanding of its rifting history. Individual reservoirs may vary in
quality because of changes in their depositional environments and subsequent diagenesis. Some seals
are laterally extensive and very effective, even causing over-pressuring in some areas, whereas others
are thin and may be breached by faults.
A significant number of oil and natural gas discoveries have been confirmed so far, three of which have
been developed i.e. Foinaven, Schiehallion/Loyal development and Clair. Several others could have the
potential to become producing fields when additional discoveries and/or economic conditions justify the
costs involved in extraction of hydrocarbons. An example of this is the, Laggan/Tormore development,
due to come on stream in 2013. Around 200 exploration and appraisal wells have been drilled along the
UK Atlantic Margin over the past 30 years, the vast majority in the Faroe-Shetland Basin area (Figures
2 and 3).
Although median lines between the Republic of Ireland, the United Kingdom and the Faroes have been
agreed, there remains disputed territory in the extended continental shelf areas where there are
competing claims under United Nations Convention on the Law Of the Sea (UNCLOS) claims (Figure 1;
UNCLOS, 2009).
Finally, the effect of the 2010 Macondo oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico on exploration and production in
the UK Atlantic Margin deep-water area is still to be seen in terms of public opinion and no doubt DECC
will continue to scrutinise new applications to drill with the utmost diligence, and have already increased
offshore environmental inspections. Fiscal changes will also be more keenly felt in this region where
costs are inevitably higher due to the challenging environment.
GEOLOGICAL CONTEXT
The NE-Atlantic margin consists of a series of predominantly NE-trending sub-basins separated by
relatively narrow basement cored highs and more extensive platform areas. The basin fill is located in
half-graben, usually exhibiting asymmetrical distribution of sediments controlled by major faults. The
region exhibits changes in polarity of these half-grabens controlled by generally NW-trending tranverse
lineaments; the latter also influence sedimentation patterns along the generally NE-trending sub-basins
(Figures 1 and 2; Ritchie et. al., 2011).
The margin has been subjected to numerous episodes of rifting that began after the Caledonian
Orogeny during Mid to Late Devonian times, continued though the Permo-Triassic, Jurassic,
Cretaceous and locally, Early to Mid Paleocene times. Extension initially focused on the north-easttrending Caledonian structural grain prevalent throughout basins of the north-east Atlantic Margin. Rift
activity is thought to have migrated seawards through time (Dor et al., 1997 and 1999; Spencer et al.,
1999) with Permo-Triassic half-grabens located in basins marginal to the Faroe-Shetland area and the
Rockall, FaroeShetland and Mre basins mainly formed further to the west in response to Cretaceous
extension.
Widespread mainly continental volcanism and intrusive activity during latest Paleocene to earliest
Eocene times heralded renewed rifting, resulting in continental break-up between north-west Europe
and Greenland during earliest Eocene times and leading to the formation of the present day north-east
Atlantic Ocean.

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High acoustic impedance contrasts associated with the widespread Palaeogene volcanic and intrusive
rocks present, have resulted in poor seismic definition of the deep structure in some areas and this,
together with a lack of adequate deep well control has resulted in some uncertainty regarding the
timing, duration and significance of many of the postulated rift events that influenced the development
of the central and north-west parts of the FaroeShetland Basin and the Rockall Basin. The extent of
the thick basaltic lavas is shown in Figure 1 and their presence has hampered exploration as seismic
imaging through the basalt is a serious challenge.
Following separation, post-rift subsidence was the dominant tectonic process influencing the
development of the north-east Atlantic rift basins. However, this was interrupted by significant phases of
compressional deformation, uplift and shelf/basin margin tilting, which play a crucial role in trap
generation and migration. The timing and cause of post-breakup tectonism on this passive margin is
now a key area for research, and some of the largest undrilled structures were formed during this time.
Proven hydrocarbon reservoirs occur within fractured Lewisian basement and Devono-Carboniferous
fluvial, aeolian and lacustrine sandstones. An Early Triassic reservoir, the Otter Bank Sandstone, is a
combination of fluvial and aeolian sabkha deposits with poroperm in the range 14%-18% and 5-185
mD. Interestingly the seal to this reservoir is a low permeability Middle Triassic sandstone of the
overlying Foula Formation (Quinn et al., 2011).
Upper Jurassic shallow marine (Rona Member) and shelf to basinal (Solan Member) sandstones
located within the prolific Kimmeridge Clay Formation source rock, have variable reservoir
characteristics due in part to post-depositional cementation; porosity may be over 25% and permeability
185 mD at some locations but less than 10% and 10 mD at others. Lower Cretaceous, Victory
Formation early syn-rift fan delta deposits and Lower to Upper Cretaceous Commodore sandstone
deposited in a proximal but more open marine setting have excellent poroperm characteristics and are
proven reservoirs in natural gas and gas condensate discoveries.
Paleocene deep-water fan sandstones comprise the reservoir in two of the producing fields in the area
(Foinaven and Scheihallion/Loyal development) and, along with Eocene fan sandstones contain
numerous significant discoveries within the Faroe-Shetland Basin area.
Analysis of hydrocarbons from fields and significant discoveries in the area indicate the presence of
both Middle and Upper Jurassic source rocks (Scotchman et al., 1998). In addition, analyses of
potential source rocks shows that other successions, in particular the Devonian Carboniferous and
Lower Jurassic, have the potential to contribute to hydrocarbon pools in the area.
HISTORY OF EXPLORATION
The first exploration well on the UK Atlantic margin (well 206/12-1) was drilled on the 11th July 1972 on
a north-east trending basement ridge, the Rona High, and encountered hydrocarbon shows in fractured
Upper Cretaceous chalk and Archaean Lewisian gneiss (Figures 2 and 3). The succeeding 40 years of
exploration has seen around 200 exploration and appraisal wells, by far the majority in the FaroeShetland Basin, resulting in numerous significant discoveries and the development of three
hydrocarbon fields. Each decade has seen the identification and testing of new play concepts and the
application of different technologies both in exploration and in development of fields.
South of the Faroe-Shetland Basin, hydrocarbon exploration has concentrated on the eastern side
Rockall Basin area (Figure 1). Despite the first speculative seismic surveys in the Rockall Basin being
acquired in the early to mid 70s the area may be considered to be at an immature stage of
hydrocarbon exploration. Eleven hydrocarbon wells have been drilled, between 1988 and 2006, with
one significant gas discovery (well 154/01-1) containing natural gas in thick, but low porosity Upper
Paleocene sandstone being reported. In Irish waters, within the Rockall Basin, well 12/02-1 proved a
large gas condensate column within a thick Permian sandstone reservoir.

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The 70s
Early exploration tended to be located close to basin margins in relatively shallow waters and focused
on testing tilted fault block plays that had already proved successful in other parts of the UKCS. Results
were disappointing in the North Rona and West Shetland basins but oil and natural gas shows were
recorded within stratigraphical intervals from wells drilled on the Rona High (well 206/12-1) and within
the Judd (well 205/22-1A) and the Foula (well 206/05-1) sub-basins (Figures 2 and 3). In 1977, two
significant hydrocarbon accumulations were discovered, both located on the Rona High, within oilcharged Devono-Carboniferous, the Clair Field (discovery well 206/08-1A), and natural gas-charged
Lower Cretaceous reservoir, the Victory accumulation (discovery well 207/01-3). However, potential
production problems associated with the fractured nature of the Clair reservoir and the relatively small
size of the Victory natural gas discovery, together with the high cost of developing an infrastructure,
resulted in no early exploitation of these discoveries. The Victory discovery, still undeveloped at the
present day, is located on a south-easterly dipping tilted fault block top sealed by Upper Cretaceous
mudstone (Goodchild et al., 1999). A younger (?early Albian to Cenomanian) sandstone play was also
recognised dipping north-west into the Foula Sub-Basin (Grant et al., 1999).
The 80s
In the 1980s, as deepwater technology developed, exploration began to move into the deeper waters
of the FaroeShetland Basin. It was the decade in which the great thicknesses of the sand-rich
Paleocene and Eocene succession and its hydrocarbon potential began to be recognised. Wells drilled
on the Flett High (e.g. 206/02-1A) and bounding Foula (e.g. well 214/30-1) and Flett (e.g. well 214/27-1)
sub-basins tested natural gas from Eocene and Paleocene sandstones up to 3 km thick (Figures 2 and
3). In 1986, the Laggan natural gas accumulation was discovered (discovery well 206/01-2) and though
significant was, along with the other natural gas discoveries made at this time, of relatively small size
and, with no infrastructure in place, uneconomic at that time.
In 1989, a well drilled within the Flett Sub-basin (well 205/09-1) demonstrated that sandstones of
reservoir quality could occur at great depths in the subsurface. The well encountered slightly
overpressured Paleocene sandstone with very good porosity and permeability characteristics at depths
of up to 4 km below sea bed and stimulated further exploration within the area with the development of
the Paleocene play within the Flett Sub-basin area (Lamers and Carmichael, 1999).
Other basins and highs adjacent to the Faroe-Shetland Basin were tested for the first time in the 1980s
identifying potential hydrocarbon reservoirs in Lower Cretaceous limestone, Upper Jurassic sandstone
and conglomerate and fractured Lewisian Basement.
The 90s
Early in this decade, a key exploration well that was drilled to test a deeper prospect (well 204/24-1A),
encountered thin oil and natural gas-bearing sands within a shallower Paleocene succession, which
had been identified as a secondary target from a laterally extensive seismic amplitude anomaly
(Figures 2 and 3). Reprocessing of 2D seismic data and analysis of seismic amplitudes led to the
drilling of a second well (well 204/24a-2) and the acquisition of a 3D survey that led to appraisal and
definition of the 1 billion barrel Foinaven oil Field (250 MMBBL, recoverable reserves assuming 25%
recovery). This discovery led to the recognition of the Paleocene deep-water play (Lamers and
Carmichael, 1999) and application of similar exploration techniques resulted in the subsequent
discoveries of the Schiehallion and Loyal fields and other significant discoveries within Paleocene
sands (Leach et al., 1999; Loizou, 2005).
However, the techniques used to explore for this type of play had their limitations and several
prospects, identified from strong seismic anomalies and drilled in the adjacent Flett Sub-basin, had
disappointing well tests (Smallwood and Kirk, 2005). There are several reasons for incorrect
interpretation of the seismic anomalies including non-reservoir lithologies (igneous extrusive and
intrusive rocks) exhibiting similar strong seismic amplitudes, and positive tuning effects, produced
where a potential reservoir succession thins up-dip to pinchout, resulting in convergence of seismic

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events and increase in amplitude (Smallwood and Kirk, 2005). Manufactured amplitude anomalies or
seismic artefacts during seismic processing can also produce a misleading seismic response and
lateral variation of shale anisotropy can result in a seemingly attractive seismic amplitude variation with
offset (AVO) response (Smallwood and Kirk, 2005).
Serendipitous discoveries were made in the East Solan Basin within Triassic and Upper Jurassic
sandstones. The East Solan Basin appears to be separate from the Faroe-Shetland Basin to the north
and it was generally thought that insufficient hydrocarbons could have been generated here to form
commercially viable accumulations (Figure 2; Herries et al., 1999). The Triassic discovery well
(205/26a-3) was drilled primarily to test a Jurassic sandstone prospect (Figure 3). Although the Jurassic
target was absent, an oil column was discovered within a Triassic redbed succession establishing the
Otter Bank Sandstone play (Quinn et al., 2011). It was an appraisal of this Triassic discovery (well
205/26a-4) that proved oil within Upper Jurassic and identified the Solan Sandstone hydrocarbon play
in this area (Herries et al., 1999).
Throughout the 1990s, appraisal and development of the Clair, Foinaven and Schiehallion fields and
their satellites continued. Regional exploration also progressed with varying success, with wells drilled
in the West Solan and North Rona basins and on the Judd, Flett, Foula and Corona sub-basins and
associated highs (Figure 2).
In 1998, the first wells were drilled on the Corona High in the centre of the FaroeShetland Basin, the
second well (213/23-1) proving natural gas and oil shows in Upper Cretaceous, Triassic and
Carboniferous strata. In the Corona Sub-basin, a well (214/04-1) targeting an anticlinal structure with a
DHI was drilled in 1999 and flowed natural gas from a Middle Eocene deep marine fan sandstone
(Figure 3; Loizou, 2005).
2000s to present day
Since 2000, field appraisal and development wells continue to be drilled on Foinaven, Schiehallion,
Laggan and Clair, and further exploratory wells have been drilled in the Judd Sub-basin and on the
Rona, Judd and Mre Marginal highs (Figures 2 and 3). In 2004, a well (213/27-1Z) drilled on the
Corona High (first drilled in 1998) proved a significant oil and natural gas accumulation in a Paleocene
and pre-Cretaceous succession. The Paleocene reservoir is approximately 100 m thick in the well and
is contained within a volcanic succession several hundred metres thick.
FIELD DEVELOPMENT
The three producing fields in the area are all located in the Faroe-Shetland Basin area and have
reservoirs in Paleocene deep-water channel sands (Foinaven and Schiehallion/Loyal) and in fractured
basement rocks and fluvial and aeolian sandstones (Clair) (Figures 2 and 3). The different geological
setting of the fields means that each present their own challenges with regard to optimising production,
but two of the key tools for meeting this task are developments in directional drilling and application of
4D seismic technology. These technological applications enable a better understanding of the reservoir
architecture and the means to target injectors and producing wells at exactly the right place.
Existing and new infrastructure developments are key stimuli to continued success in the UK Atlantic
Margin, where distances to shore-based support and markets are large and an important factor in the
economic viability of smaller discoveries. In 2013 the Laggan-Tormore field will come on stream and it
is envisaged that this, coupled with additional investment to the field production facilities at the
Schiehallion/Loyal development, will boost exploration and development of some of the smaller
accumulations in the Faroe-Shetland Basin.
The Foinaven Field and 204 development
The Foinaven Field is located 150 km west of Shetland in a water depth of more than 500 m. The field
is estimated to contain 1070 MMBBL of oil and 440 BCF; an average recovery factor of 25% gives

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recoverable reserves of 250 MMBBLS. The majority of wells are drilled from 2 drill centres, generally at
high angles to vertical to maximise exposure to reservoir (Cooper et al., 1999; Carruth, 2003).
Hydrocarbons have accumulated in a combined structural/stratigraphic trap; a dip-closed faulted
anticline, but with an element of stratigraphic pinchout. The oil is close to bubble point, so it is important
to keep pressure up in the reservoir. The field is heavily compartmentalised both by faults and also by
some sand bodies that may not be in communication. The pressure in the reservoir is maintained by
water flood and thus placement of water injectors and producers is crucial and depends to a large
extent upon 4D seismic imaging that enables accurate mapping of faults and individual sand bodies.
Following a re-processed baseline survey, 4D seismic has been shot every 2 years for the past 10
years in order to monitor pressure changes due to water injection and production; it was important that
the surveys were repeated with the same parameters each time. Strong currents in the area govern the
orientation of the repeated surveys. Fluid type and fill have a high impact on seismic resolution. For
instance, brine filled sand has an acoustic response close to shale on seismic, whereas the response
for oil filled sands is quite different. Thus oil filled sands can be seen on the seismic whereas brine filled
sands are not distinguishable from shale resulting in uncertainty over the identification of sands and
thus potential connectivity within the reservoir. However, continuous improvement in the quality of
seismic imaging has enabled better modelling of reservoir architecture and understanding of
connectivity which is very important for locating oil producers and water injectors for optimal production
and maintenance of pressure to prevent natural gas break-out.
In 2010 the operating company (BP) and partners for the Schiehallion and Loyal fields adjacent to
Foinaven announced re-development/replacement of infrastructure serving these fields in order to
provide increased capacity to cope with increased production and extend field life and also provide
potential tie-back to smaller existing oil and natural gas discoveries in the area (BP 2010). This should
provide much needed impetus to smaller discoveries in the area.
The Laggan-Tormore development
The Laggan Field, operated by Total E & P UK, is located 100 km west of Shetland in a water depth of
around 600 m. Natural gas is trapped in Paleocene sandstone by a combination of up-dip truncation in
the hanging wall of a major fault and laterally by a combination of reservoir pinchout and faulting. When
first discovered 25 years ago, its reserves and distance to onshore facilities made the field marginal to
develop. However, subsequent nearby discoveries, in particular the Tormore discovery (well 205/05a-1)
in 2007 have made development possible. Exploitation is planned as a subsea development, tied back
to Sullom Voe on Shetland from two identical six slot template-manifolds and up to 8 development
wells. There is an initial plateau production rate of 500 MMscfd.
Due to low temperatures and high pressure present at sea bed, there is a risk of production of hydrates
that will be mitigated by continuous stream of methanol injected at the site of the subsea wells. A comingled, multiphase fluid stream will be transported to shore via two 18 production flowlines. First
production is expected in middle of 2013. Onshore facilities will be built to separate natural gas and
liquids streams ready for onward export. The natural gas will be exported via the FUKA (Frigg UK
Agreement) pipeline and liquids exported via tanker. This additional infrastructure may make smaller
discoveries accessible and be a key factor in stimulating exploration in this area (Total, 2000).
EXPLORATION OPPORTUNITIES
Exploration on the UK Atlantic Margin has mainly focused in the Faroe-Shetland Basin where early
successes and relative proximity to shore-based support have led to some infrastructure development
which in turn should drive further exploration and discovery. The more distant Hatton and Rockall
basins, with unproven aspects to plays, lack of infrastructure and greater distance from shore-based
support are less explored. However, there are opportunities in both these regions.

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Mature Faroe-Shetland region


Significant discoveries continue to be made in the Faroe-Shetland Basin revitalising established plays
identified in the past four decades of exploration in the region. A recent significant discovery on the
Rona High (well 205/21a-4) made in fractured basement is interesting as the oil was very light (38
API), in contrast to the heavier oils present in the main producing fields in the area (Figure 2). Lessons
learned from appraisal and production in the Clair Field fractured basement reservoir may be applicable
here; in particular, improvement in seismic imaging to allow fracture framework to be imaged and
targeted by directional drilling.
The Cretaceous sandstone play, recognised in the 1970s, has been revitalised by a new natural gas
and condensate discovery in the Foula Sub-basin (well 206/04-2). The discovery was made using the
same techniques used in the exploration for Paleocene natural gas accumulations, application of
amplitude anomaly interpretation coupled with prediction of the presence of viable reservoir being
present at that location. Ultimately, this new find may be exploited by tying into the Laggan-Tormore
natural gas export system.
The deep-water Paleocene play continues to be successful with, for instance, a significant discovery in
1000 m water depth in the Judd Sub-Basin (Figure 2). The Tornado prospect in the Judd Sub-basin
(well 204/13-1), is a stratigraphic trap, and was defined by an amplitude anomaly and supported by the
development of a credible geological model. The prospect was further de-risked by application of
Controlled Source Electromagnetics (CSEM). Results from CSEM analysis (a two-line survey)
suggested the presence of a highly resistive, thick hydrocarbon-bearing sandstone (Rodriguez et al.,
2010).
In the early phases of exploration sub-basalt imaging was almost impossible, however the last twenty
years has seen several different techniques developed to enhance geological understanding. Kimbell et
al. (2004) developed a regional approach to sediment thickness based on 3D gravity modelling. One of
the key results of this approach was a detailed sedimentary thickness model (Figure 1). This was
followed by a more detailed study where the modelled thickness of the volcanic rocks was removed.
Seismic data quality has made tremendous strides. Early work by Ziolkowski et al. (2003) developed
concepts for low frequency sources and deep-towed air guns. This work continues to be developed
across the industry and combined with new processing techniques a steady and sometimes
spectacular improvement in sub-basalt imaging continues to be seen.
Under-explored Rockall and Hatton basins and Hatton Bank High
As improving technology enables better seismic imaging beneath the thick basalts, exploration may
move to the south into the Rockall and Hatton region testing new areas and defining new plays. A key
risk in the Rockall and Hatton areas concerns the distribution and maturity of hydrocarbon source rocks
required to charge the reservoir rocks and structures present in these areas. Within the Rockall Basin it
is believed that the main phase of extension occurred during the Cretaceous, and this may have had a
severe impact on the preservation and extent of pre-rift Jurassic source rocks. Structures within these
basins are hard to map and may be very low relief due to the high amount of extension. It is intriguing
to speculate that electromagnetic survey technology may be a useful tool for recognising thick mature
source rocks which would have a higher resistivity than surrounding water-bearing sediments.
There have been two significant hydrocarbon discoveries in the Rockall Basin, one in the UK sector
that tested natural gas from Paleocene basin-floor fan deposits and another in the Irish sector, which is
reported to have tested gas condensate from Permo-Triassic sandstones. These discoveries confirm
the presence, at least locally, of active petroleum systems within the Rockall Basin. Two plays within
the Rockall Basin are considered here together with one in the more remote Hatton Bank/basin area.
Compared with the West of Shetland area, relatively little is known about the areal extent of Eocene fan
and channel deposits in the Rockall Basin. To a large extent this reflects its frontier status, with a

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relatively sparse coverage of seismic data, and in particular of the modern 3D seismic data which is
best suited to mapping the Eocene fans. Reconnaissance mapping has revealed the presence of both
mid-Eocene slope fans along the eastern margin of the Rockall Basin, and of at least one contemporary
basin-floor fan in the north of the basin. Aside from this, a number of exploration boreholes and BGS
shallow stratigraphic boreholes have intercepted Eocene sandstones of potential reservoir quality
(DTI/BERR, 2007).
Tilted fault blocks on western margin Rockall Basin have been mapped with limited 2D seismic data.
Potential reservoirs are expected within Jurassic and Triassic sandstones. Once again the charging of
these reservoirs is seen as a risk as the expected Jurassic source located in Rockall Basin may be of
lower volumes due to greater extension during the Cretaceous.
The Hatton High lies approximately 1000 km west of Shetland in a water depth of around 700 m. Here,
windows in the basalt covering, where it is thin or absent due to erosion, have been drilled by BGS
shallow boreholes (99/2A and 99/1) that proved a Lower Cretaceous immature source and sandstone.
Improved seismic data has enabled identification of tilted fault blocks within probable Mesozoic strata.
However, the remoteness of this area from shore is another challenge for these prospects.
CONCLUSIONS
The Atlantic Margin basins contain three of the largest producing fields in the United Kingdom offshore
area, but exploration in many areas remains very limited. However, a combination of a better geological
understanding gained through improved seismic imaging beneath volcanic rocks, and a series of other
geophysical developments continues to provide encouragement for new exploration in this challenging
area.
! UK Atlantic Margin is an important oil and gas province;
! It has a complex geology which impacts both on exploration and field development;
! Technological challenges remain with respect to improving and developing new exploration
tools;
! Technological challenges remain with respect to developing discoveries, improving recovery
and transporting hydrocarbons to shore;
! New exploration areas and new plays are there, but identifying specific targets and exploiting
these require continuous advances in technology and techniques.
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Figure 1. Regional context of UK Atlantic Passive Margin showing location of Faroe-Shetland, Rockall and
Hatton basins (modified after Kimbell et al., 2005).

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Field

Tonnes

Barrels

Buzzard

9,042,550

66,281,892

Forties

2,762,750

20,250,958

Clair

2,031,140

14,888,256

Captain

2,011,210

14,742,169

Foinaven

1,703,500

12,486,655

Elgin

1,627,070

11,926,423

Alba

1,548,380

11,349,625

Franklin

1,428,360

10,469,879

Callanish

1,370,730

10,047,451

Schiehallion and Loyal

1,045,970

7,666,960

Table 1. The top ten producing oil fields on the United Kingdom Continental Shelf - oil production for
2010. The three fields highlighted in Blue are located on UK Atlantic Margin. Contains public sector
information licensed under the Open Government Licence V.1.0. (DECC, 2011(b))

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Figure 2. Location of basins and sub-basins in the Faroe-Shetland Basin area (modified after Ritchie et al.,
2011). Contains public sector information licensed under the Open Government Licence V.1.0. Field
outlines from DECC 2011(c).

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Figure 3. Inset to Figure 2 showing location of commercial wells referred to in the text. Location of basins
and sub-basins in the Faroe-Shetland Basin area (modified after Ritchie et al., 2011). Contains public
sector information licensed under the Open Government Licence V.1.0. Field outlines and wells from
DECC 2011(c).