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Seismic mapping of key Paleozoic surfaces in the East Irish Sea–North Channel region has been incorporated into a review of hydrocarbon prospectivity. The major Carboniferous basinal and inversion elements are identified, allowing an assessment of the principal kitchens for hydrocarbon generation and possible migration paths. A Carboniferous tilt-block is identified beneath the central part of the (Permian–Mesozoic) East Irish Sea Basin (EISB), bounded by carbonate platforms to the south and north. The importance of the Bowland Shale Formation as the key source rock is reaffirmed, the Pennine Coal Measures having been extensively excised following Variscan inversion and pre-Permian erosion. Peak generation from the Bowland source coincided with maximum burial of the system in late Jurassic–early Cretaceous time. Multiphase Variscan inversion generated numerous structural traps whose potential remains underexplored. Leakage of hydrocarbons from these into the overlying Triassic Ormskirk Sandstone reservoirs is likely to have occurred on a number of occasions, but currently unknown is how much resource remains in place below the Base Permian Unconformity. Poor permeability in the Pennsylvanian strata beneath the Triassic fields is a significant risk; the same may not be true in the less deeply buried marginal areas of the EISB, where additional potential plays are present in Mississippian carbonate platforms and latest Pennsylvanian clastic sedimentary rocks. Outside the EISB, the North Channel, Solway and Peel basins also contain Devonian and/or Carboniferous rocks. There have, however, been no discoveries, largely a consequence of the absence of a high-quality source rock and a regional seal comparable to the Mercia Mudstone Group and Permian evaporites of the Cumbrian Coast Group in the EISB.

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