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The North Sea covers the offshore part of a major sedimentary basin which extends from Norway, Scotland, and Denmark across northern Germany and the Netherlands into eastern England.
Information gained from exploration efforts over the last 10 years shows that the North Sea covers several smaller sedimentary and structural basins of different geologic ages, but for descriptive purposes these can be divided into southern and northern areas. The rocks range in age from Paleozoic to Tertiary and consist of sandstone, shale, carbonate rock, and evaporite. The most important reservoir rocks are the Lower Permian sandstones of the Rotliegendes Formation, the Upper Permian dolomites of the Zechstein Formation, the Triassic sandstone of the Bunter Formation, the Maestrichtian-Danian chalk, and Paleocene and Eocene sandstones. Significant shows of hydrocarbons have been found in 9 formations. The main source rocks are Carboniferous coal measures, Mesozoic shale and carbona es, and Tertiary shale and carbonates. The significant traps are folds and fault blocks associated with salt movement and basement faulting.
Exploration activity received its initial impetus in 1959 from the discovery of a major gas field, Schlochteren, onshore in northern Netherlands. In the early 1960s the passing of legislation favorable for the acquisition of exploration acreage offshore added further stimulus to the exploration pace. The majority of this activity was concentrated initially in the southern area, and resulted in the discovery of the first offshore commercial gas field at West Sole in 1965. This discovery was followed rapidly by other gas discoveries in the United Kingdom and the Netherlands culminating in the Leman Bank field, a major gas field by world standards. Interest and activity lagged, however, in the northern area despite reported small oil and gas discoveries in Denmark, and the discovery in 1 68 of the Cod gas-condensate field in Norway. In late 1969, oil production was established at the Ekofisk field in Norway. With this discovery and subsequent confirmation as a major field, exploratory interest has shifted to the north.
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