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AAPG Bulletin


AAPG Bulletin, V. 88, No. 1 (2004), P. 1-20.

Copyright copy2004. The American Association of Petroleum Geologists. All rights reserved.

Post-breakup compression of a passive margin and its impact on hydrocarbon prospectivity: An example from the Tertiary of the FaeroendashShetland Basin, United Kingdom

Richard Davies,1 Ian Cloke,2 Joe Cartwright,3 Andrew Robinson,4 Charles Ferrero5

13DLab, School of Earth, Ocean and Planetary Sciences, Cardiff University, Main Building, Park Place, Cardiff, CF10 3YE, United Kingdom; [email protected]
2ExxonMobil Production Company, 396 West Greens Road, Houston, Texas, 77060; [email protected]
33DLab, School of Earth, Ocean and Planetary Sciences, Cardiff University, Main Building, Park Place, Cardiff, CF10 3YE, United Kingdom
43DLab, School of Earth, Ocean and Planetary Sciences, Cardiff University, Main Building, Park Place, Cardiff, CF10 3YE, United Kingdom
5ABN Amro, 250 Bishopsgate, London EC2M 4AA, United Kingdom


Richard Davies has a B.Sc. degree from the University of Reading (1990) and a Ph.D. from the University of Edinburgh, United Kingdom (1995). He joined Mobil North Sea in 1995 and worked on field development and exploration in the North Sea and west of Shetlands, United Kingdom, and then for ExxonMobil Exploration on acreage on the west Niger delta deep-water slope. In 2003, he was appointed senior lecturer at the School of Earth Sciences, Cardiff University, United Kingdom. His main interest is the use of 3-D seismic data for the investigation of sedimentary and deformational processes.

Ian Cloke has a B.Sc. degree from the University of Durham and an M.Sc. degree and a Ph.D. from Royal Holloway, University of London, United Kingdom. He has worked as a geoscientist for Conoco, United Kingdom, LASMO, Mobil North Sea, and ExxonMobil Production. Since 2001, he has explored the deep overpressured Vicksburg and Frio of south Texas for tight gas plays.

Joe Cartwright is a research professor in geophysics at the School of Earth Sciences, Cardiff University, United Kingdom. He holds an M.A. degree in geology and a Ph.D. in structural geology from Oxford University, United Kingdom. He worked for Shell International in the early 1980s as a seismic interpreter, with operational experience in Denmark and Brunei Darussalam. From 1989 to 1999, he was a senior lecturer at Imperial College, London. His main research interests have been in the analysis of basin deformation using 3-D seismic data, with specific focus on soft-sediment deformational processes and fluid flow.

Andrew Robinson is a Ph.D. student at the School of Earth Sciences, Cardiff University, United Kingdom, investigating the stratigraphic evolution of the FaeroendashShetland Basin during the Paleogene. He obtained his B.Sc. (1996) and MRes (1998) degrees from the University of Edinburgh (United Kingdom) and has also worked for Amerada Hess, coauthoring the Upper Jurassic chapter of The Millennium Atlas: The Petroleum Geology of the Central and Northern North Sea, United Kingdom.

Charlie Ferrero recently completed his Ph.D. at Imperial College, London, investigating the application of a novel statistical method to the quantification of uncertainty in thermal history modeling for hydrocarbon exploration, with particular emphasis on defining practical guidelines for future use. He holds an M.Sc. degree in petroleum geology, also from Imperial College, and an M.A. degree from Cambridge University, United Kingdom.


We would like to thank ExxonMobil International for giving permission to publish this paper and ExxonMobil Exploration Company and Pinar Yilmaz for funding color figures. We are extremely grateful to the Tranche 61 partnership, Mobil North Sea, Phillips Petroleum, U.K., Marathon Oil, U.K., Statoil (U.K.), Enterprise Oil, Anadarko North Sea, and PanCanadian North Sea for permission to use unreleased data, particularly from well 214/4-1. Bouguer Gravity map and processing (Figure 3) courtesy of ARK Geophysics Ltd. Richard Davies and Ian Cloke thank the above partnership for many thought-provoking discussions held at technical committee meetings. PGS Exploration, U.K., kindly gave permission for the release of 3-D seismic data from T61 and T62. Fugro Multi Client Services and WesternGeco kindly approved the release of 2-D seismic data. We are grateful to Kevin McLachlan, Charles Line, Sue Love, and Peter Walker for developing the isochron maps for the Eocene fans and for discussion on their interpretation. John Bingham worked with Richard Davies on the 214/4-1 discovery well and is thanked for his advice on its geophysical response. Tom Bultman kindly made suggestions on an earlier draft of this paper. We thank Jim Granath and Joseph R. Studlick for helpful reviews.


The FaeroendashShetland Basin is part of a passive continental margin that formed as a result of multiphase extension associated with North Atlantic rifting during the Mesozoic and Paleocene. Breakup was followed by postrift subsidence during the latest Paleocene to late Eocene and the development of at least three 70–150-km (43–93-mi)-long, broadly north-south–orientated, slope canyons and linked terminal fans during the middle Eocene. The terminal fans filled northeast-southwest–striking basin-floor bathymetric depressions that had formed above the hanging walls of underlying, dormant northeast-southwest–trending Mesozoic extensional faults and adjacent half-graben depocenters. Compression during the middle and late Miocene caused contractional reactivation of the Mesozoic extensional faults and folding of the overlying uppermost Paleocene to middle Miocene postrift sediments into a series of 17 northeast-southwest–striking anticlinal domes. The switch from hanging-wall bathymetric depression during terminal fan deposition to anticlinal domal high during and after the middle to late Miocene compression has led to the present-day spatial coincidence of a potential hydrocarbon reservoir and an effective trap. The anticlines also acted as the foci for gas migration during or after compression (15 Ma to present). However, the timing of compression and differential uplift of the basin margins during the past 15 m.y., approximately 45 m.y. after the main phase of oil migration, may be a critical negative factor for oil exploration in this part of the basin. This hydrocarbon phase may have spilled during the structural reorganization, either updip into shallower traps or out of the hydrocarbon system via seeps.

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