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Decades of oil and gas exploration across the North Sea have led to a detailed understanding of its Cenozoic–Mesozoic structure. However, the deeper basin architecture of Paleozoic petroleum systems has been less well defined by seismic data. This regional structural overview of the Devono-Carboniferous petroleum systems incorporates interpretations from more than 85 000 line-kilometres of 2D seismic data and 50 3D seismic volumes, plus a gravity, density and magnetic study, from the Central Silverpit Basin to the East Orkney Basin. A complex picture of previously unmapped or poorly known basins emerges on an inherited basement fabric, with numerous granite-cored blocks. These basins are controlled by Devono-Carboniferous normal, strike-slip and reverse faults.

The main basins across Quadrants 29–44 trend NW–SE, influenced by the Tornquist trend inherited from the Caledonian basement. North of Quadrants 27 and 28, and the presumed Iapetus suture, the major depocentres are NE–SW (e.g. the Forth Approaches and Inner Moray Firth basins) to east–west (e.g. the Caithness Graben), and WNW–ESE trending (e.g. the East Orkney Basin), reflecting the basement structural inheritance. From seismic interpretation, there are indications of an older north–south fault trend in the Inner Moray Firth that is difficult to image, since it has been dissected by subsequent Permo-Carboniferous and Mesozoic faulting and rifting.

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