In the present straitened times, finances are tight for all research organizations, and geological institutes are no exception. This realization has prompted the national geological surveys of many of the countries bordering the North East Atlantic – a key petroleum province – to form an alliance with the aim of furthering geoscience understanding in their joint region. The resulting North East Atlantic Geoscience (NAG) cooperation framework was agreed to by the chief executives of the British, Norwegian, German, Icelandic, Netherlands, Irish, Northern Irish, Danish and Greenland national geological surveys or institutes.
The idea behind this venture is to identify projects and areas of research which can be more effectively furthered through collaboration. One of the first projects to be put forward is an initiative centered around the tectonic development of the North Atlantic, with particular emphasis on continental margin evolution and increased understanding of the deep water basins along the continental margins. In the spring of 2009, representatives of the surveys formed the NAG-TEC Group with the remit to define and carry out this project.
From the outset, a key emphasis was to identify and compare important conjugate margin pairs to understand the full rift system across the entire North Atlantic basin, but it was quickly realized that there were a number of barriers that prevented optimal design of possible new projects. These included a lack of regional compilations of key geological and geophysical information, which together with local nomenclature differences resulted in difficulties in establishing regional correlations, while large areas with sparse data made it difficult to prioritize which data gaps were most important in terms of regional understanding.
As the group looked at these issues, it became readily apparent that a new com prehensive and up-to-date Tectonostratigraphic Atlas of the North East Atlantic Region was necessary, from which it will be possible to develop an understanding of the evolution of thearea on a regional scale. The Atlas will be an A3 publication and GIS digital atlas, comprising maps, charts, analyses, metadata of all known geophysical and geological investigations and summary chapters describing and analys ing the key outcomes from the project.
De-risking Exploration Frontiers
As NAG-TEC project leader John Hopper from GEUS (Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland), explains; “This Atlas will be an important asset to the oil and gas industry, as the search for hydrocarbons moves into the more remote corners of the Atlantic. It will de-risk frontier exploration areas and deep water basins by providing a quantitative analysis of basin parameters and regional correlations of key stratigraphic units and geologic formations and an understanding of the basin response to magmatic seafloor spreading. It will be critical for exploration in undrilled frontier areas by highlighting connectivity between them and known prospective areas, and will develop new models for the tectonic and stratigraphic evolution of the conjugate margin system, leading to more accurate reconstructions of sediment sources and sinks through time.
“As we believe that the outcome of the project will form the essential knowledge base for setting regional exploration priorities for the next decade and beyond, we have asked the petroleum industry for sponsorship, and already have a number of companies involved. Sponsors join the project on a non-exclusive basis and contribute €200,000. They gain access to the confidential project web site and participate in the steering committee meetings and in regular workshops.”
“This is an exciting development and we hope it will be the precursor to a number of other collaborative schemes,” John Ludden, Director of the British Geological Survey, adds. “In the future the European geological surveys could form con sortia of, for example, paleontologists or geochemists, sharing knowledge and expert ise, and running joint projects. The European geological surveys working together has to be good for future research.”