Abstract

Seismic data made available by the UK OGA (Oil & Gas Authority) has been used to constrain a model of crustal structure and heat-flow history for the UK Rockall Basin. Top basement/base sediment has been interpreted around the full extent of the seismic dataset. This has produced a model for the thickness of the sediment fill within the basin which is thicker than previous published estimates.

The new sediment-thickness model has been incorporated into a 3D backstripping study, producing maps of subsidence and thinning factor. Analysis of backstripped subsidence shows the thinning factor reaching peak values of c. 0.8–0.85 (β factor >5) in the south-central axial area, reducing in magnitude northwards to c. 0.7. The new sediment-thickness model has also been incorporated into a 3D gravity-inversion study, mapping Moho depth, crustal thickness and thinning/stretching factor. The results show crustal-basement thickness reduced to c. 6 km, thinning factor c. 0.8, in the south-central area, while it spans the range c. 6–10 km further north. The results are compatible with previous seismic refraction work in both the UK and Irish sectors of the Rockall Basin. We believe that the extension which created the basin was non-magmatic and that the axial region is underlain by highly-thinned continental crust.

The results from the gravity inversion have been used to make predictions about the top-basement heat-flow history. Heat flow in the basin centre is predicted to have been initially high, reducing with time, associated with cooling of the transient synrift heat-flow anomaly. On the basin flanks heat flow was less variable over time, its magnitude controlled primarily by constant radiogenic heat input from the basement, rather than by the transient geotherm anomaly.

There remain considerable uncertainties associated with our interpretation and analysis. These uncertainties have been addressed with sensitivity analyses.

A regional gravity-inversion model, using the new sediment-thickness data spliced into regional public-domain information, shows that structural and stretching continuity can be mapped at the crustal scale along the full length of the UK/Irish Rockall Basin, contrary to conclusions from some previous studies.

This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/)