The Faroe–Shetland Basin is located offshore NW Scotland on the SE margin of the Atlantic Ocean and comprises numerous sub-basins and intra-basin highs that are host to a number of significant hydrocarbon discoveries. The principal hydrocarbon discoveries are in Paleocene–Eocene strata, although earlier strata are known, and their existence is therefore intimately linked to the opening and evolution of the North Atlantic from 54 Ma. The final rifting and separation of Greenland from Eurasia is commonly attributed to the arrival of a mantle plume which impacted beneath Greenland during early Tertiary time. Moreover, the ensuing plate separation is commonly described in terms of instantaneous unzipping of the North Atlantic, whereas in reality proto-plate boundaries were more diffuse during their inception and the linked rift system which we see today, including connections with the Arctic, was not established until Late Palaeogene–Early Neogene time. From a regional analysis of ocean basin development, including the stratigraphic record on the adjacent continental margins, the significance of the Greenland–Iceland–Faroe Ridge and the age and role of Iceland, we propose a dual rift model whereby North Atlantic break-up was only partial until the Oligo-Miocene, with true final break-up only being achieved when the Reykjanes and Kolbeinsey ridges became linked. As final break-up coincides with the appearance of Iceland, this model negates the need for a plume to develop the North Atlantic with rifting reliant on purely plate tectonic mechanisms, lithospheric thinning and variable decompressive upper mantle melt along the rifts.
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This volume addresses the challenges facing explorers and developers alike in a region that is becoming a major focus of the petroleum industry in the United Kingdom, Faroes and North Norway. Several West of Shetland fields are still in the appraisal phase almost a decade after discovery. Sub-volcanic exploration risks remain high: sub-volcanic structural traps are imaged poorly, and so the geophysical community is responding with the application of latest technology. The more simple reservoirs might not be large enough to prompt informed and speedy development decisions; larger fields might have a combination of complexities, requiring a phased approach to the development. Infrastructure has been slow to arrive and planned developments have been subject to dramatic swings in fiscal regime ranging from special allowances to unexpected tax increases.
Environmental challenges are significant when moving into more remote, deeper water. The perception of these challenges by the third parties has become much more acute. To sustain its right to operate, the industry has to demonstrate safe drilling operations and appropriate response capability with government agencies.