Jurassic Brexit: An energy treasure could be behind the phantom volcanoes

Volcanes fantasma

An unexplored swathe covering 7,000 square kilometers in the North Sea could be hiding oil and gas. In the past, it was believed that the area contained empty chambers formed by extinct volcanoes, known as phantom volcanoes.

Millions of years ago, seismic activity under the North Sea came close to creating an ocean between the United Kingdom and Europe. This is an episode that geologists have come to describe as a failed “Jurassic Brexit” attempt.

This information was detailed in a study conducted by the University of Aberdeen.

A change of perspective

For decades it was assumed that the Rattray volcanic province off northwest Scotland contained old magma chambers, ruling out the possibility of oil and gas discoveries. However, geologists at this university now say that these “phantom volcanoes” never existed.

The study’s findings raise the prospect of future discoveries in the area, which has been left untouched over 50 years of exploration activity in the North Sea, said the university.

“What we found has completely overturned decades of accepted knowledge,” Aberdeen University’s Dr. Nick Schofield said in a statement. “This gives us back a huge amount of gross rock volume that we never knew existed, in one of the world’s most prolific regions for oil and gas production.”

Schofield said the team of geologists had reassessed the area by combining 3D seismic data from Norway’s Petroleum Geo-Services with well data.

Many believed that these “phantom volcanoes” formed millions of years ago.

Jurassic Brexit vs. phantom volcanoes

The Aberdeen experts explained that this swathe of the British North Sea remains unexplored due to the “phantom volcanoes” that, as they have shown, do not exist.

In those days, the North Sea tried to create an ocean between itself and Europe, a phenomenon that that geologist refer to as the failed “Jurassic Brexit” attempt.

The study was led by Dr. Nick Schofield and PhD student Ailsa Quirie of the University of Aberdeen’s School of Geoscience, with collaboration from colleges from the Heriot-Watt University.

According to Dr. Schofield, “our study proves that these volcanoes never existed. And that the fireworks that preceded the North Sea’s attempt to create an ocean with Europe came from a series of lava fissures.”

A sea of future discoveries

These finds pose the possibility of future discoveries in the area. It has remained intact for over 50 years of exploration activity in the North Sea.

“There is a huge area under there that hasn’t been looked at in detail for a long time, because of the previously incorrect geological model,” Schofield said.

“This does not mean that exploration in the area is not challenging, but technology is improving and there are still big discoveries being made in the North Sea, such as the ones in the Central Graben and Viking Graben areas,” he stressed.

“As the old saying goes, often the best places to look for oil are in places near to where you’ve already found it,” said Schofield. “The North Sea is a prime example of that.”

For more information, check Energía16

See also: ExxonMobil announces new oil discoveries in Guyana

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