Could ‘phantom volcanoes’ hold more oil and gas in the North Sea?

The Rattray Volcanic Province was assumed to contain the remains of three volcanoes

Big Zero Report 2022

A huge unexplored swathe of the North Sea, previously thought to contain the remains of three volcanoes, could potentially hold oil and gas reserves.

For decades, the Rattray Volcanic Province, which covers an area of 7,000km2, was assumed to contain the empty remains of old magma chambers, ruling out the possibility of oil and gas discoveries.

However, geologists at the University of Aberdeen claim the so-called “phantom volcanoes” don’t exist.

Their study’s findings raise the prospect of future discoveries in the area, which has been left untouched over 50 years of exploration activity in the North Sea.

Dr Nic Schofield from the university’s School of Geosciences said: “What we found has completely overturned decades of accepted knowledge… Essentially this gives us back a huge amount of gross rock volume that we never knew existed, in one of the world’s most prolific regions for oil and gas production.

“There is a huge area under there that hasn’t been looked at in detail for a long time because of the previously incorrect geological model. That’s not to say that exploration wouldn’t be challenging but technology is constantly improving and there are still big discoveries being made in the North Sea, as we’ve recently seen in the Central Graben and Viking Graben areas.

“As the old saying goes, often the best places to look for oil are in places near to where you’ve already found it and the North Sea is a prime example of that.”

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