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The exploratory drilling of 200 wildcat wells along the NE Atlantic margin has yielded 30 finds with total discovered resources of c. 4.1×109 barrels of oil equivalent (BOE). Exploration has been highly concentrated in specific regions. Only 32 of 144 quadrants have been drilled, with only one prolific province discovered – the Faroe–Shetland Basin, where 23 finds have resources totalling c. 3.7×109 BOE. Along the margin, the pattern of discoveries can best be assessed in terms of petroleum systems. The Faroe–Shetland finds belong to an Upper Jurassic petroleum system. On the east flank of the Rockall Basin, the Benbecula gas and the Dooish condensate/gas discoveries have proven the existence of a petroleum system of unknown source – probably Upper Jurassic. The Corrib gas field in the Slyne Basin is evidence of a Carboniferous petroleum system. The three finds in the northern Porcupine Basin are from Upper Jurassic source rocks; in the south, the Dunquin well (44/23-1) suggests the presence of a petroleum system there, but of unknown source. This pattern of petroleum systems can be explained by considering the distribution of Jurassic source rocks related to the break-up of Pangaea and marine inundations of the resulting basins. The prolific synrift marine Upper Jurassic source rock (of the Northern North Sea) was not developed throughout the pre-Atlantic Ocean break-up basin system west of Britain and Ireland. Instead, lacustrine–fluvio-deltaic–marginal marine shales of predominantly Late Jurassic age are the main source rocks and have generated oils throughout the region. The structural position, in particular relating to the subsequent Early Cretaceous hyperextension adjacent to the continental margin, is critical in determining where this Upper Jurassic petroleum system will be most effective.

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