Oil fields untapped for 40 million years
11 June, 2008 – Pioneering research by Aberdeen experts is to help unearth major potential new oil fields, which have lain undiscovered and untapped for over 40 million years. Researchers from the University of Aberdeen’s College of Physical Sciences have received a grant in excess of £600,000 to fund their work into advancing the generation of future oil activity in the Faroe-Shetland basin. Innovative technology will be employed over the two-year project, which marks the first stage in what will be a significant new frontier of oil exploration in the UK. The specific area of the Faroe-Shetland basin where research will be carried out is one of the world’s largest lava fields. The ancient lavas which sit under the sea surface in what was a narrow continental seaway, have historically proven to be a serious obstacle to oil exploration for potential resources below and within the lavas. The cutting edge technology which will be employed by the University’s experts is able to penetrate this layer of lava in a way which has never before been trialled. The initial research being undertaken by the University could have huge implications for the future of the oil industry as Dr David Jolley, Senior Lecturer, School of Geosciences, University of Aberdeen explains: “The studies we will be conducting are part of the very first stages in the investigation of a major new frontier for oil exploration. Exploiting the previously untapped oil resources which lie within the Faroe-Shetland basin essentially means the introduction to the industry of an entirely new geographical area for future oil discovery and therefore production. This would mean a highly significant boost for the overall sector and in particular the Aberdeen area, as the energy capital of Europe.” The geological qualities of the Faroe-Shetland basin make it an internationally significant hotspot for volcanic lava. A 3km thick layer of lava covering over a 300 km2 area acts as a seal, trapping sand and mud – the sediment where oil can be found – between and beneath its flows. Dr Jolley continues: “The thickness of the lava means that traditional techniques employed for oil exploration in for example, the North Sea, simply don’t work. We will be introducing cutting edge technology which will allow mapping of sediments between the lava flows and the identification of oil reservoirs.” The first wells in Faroese waters were drilled in the middle of the Faroe-Shetland basin in 2001, which allowed experts to establish that the geographical area has a working petroleum system. The work at Aberdeen University will enable the effective exploration of the western part of the Faroe – Shetland basin for the first time. Dr Jolley says: “Our research will investigate an area of this stretch of water which has lain undisturbed for 40 million years due to the difficulties in exploring for oil in the lava succession. We currently know as much about this particular area of the subsea as we did about Brent in the mid 1970’s. The revolutionary technology which we will utilise may enable this promising region to become an extremely prosperous part of the oil and gas industry in the future.” The University of Aberdeen research is being funded by the Sindri Group as part of the 2008 Sindri Round funding programme. The Sindri group aims to carry out joint projects of relevance to the future investigation of the Faroese continental shelf.