The papers presented in this thematic collection all derive from a meeting on geological processes at passive margins, held at Burlington House in February 1996. The meeting was co-hosted by the Geological Society, The Norwegian Geological Society and The Norwegian Petroleum Society. We would like to thank our colleagues Bjørn Larsen and Olav Eldholmfor ensuring the strong Norwegian participation at the meeting and Mike Daly for organizing contributions from the UK hydrocarbon industry.

The formation of passive continental margins during continental rifting to form new oceans is a fundamental component of the plate tectonic process yet many aspects of the formation of passive margins are still poorly understood. Passive margins are amongst the more difficult areas of the earth's surface to study, because of their great water depths and the difficulty of acquiring data. Much of the current upsurge of attention to passive continental margins, which is particularly strong for the Irish, UK and Norwegian Atlantic margins, arises from the increased interest in their hydrocarbon potential resulting from advances in deep water exploration and production technology. This renewed interest has led to the collection of new data and the increased exchange of ideas between industry and academia, some of the results of which are presented here.

The successful geological analysis of passive margins calls for the integration of many different disciplines. The papers presented here show how we need to understand the link between tectonics, depositional systems and magmatic processes in order to understand margin evolution. In addition much of

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