Adventures in cross border geology: talking to your neighbours


Image c. Ben Kilhams

A guest post from the Petroleum Group’s Ben Kilhams on the recent ‘Mesozoic Resource Potential in the Southern Permian Basin’ conference…
Sharing ideas is the bedrock of a good conference, but how you share them and to whom is the real key.

I was recently privileged to see some superb examples of collaboration, concept sharing and networking at Burlington House during a meeting discussing the remaining hydrocarbon and geothermal opportunities of northwest Europe. The posters and presentations covered an area from the Weald Basin, onshore UK to the Dutch offshore, to Central Germany all the way to Eastern Poland.

Geologically, all these areas have a related pre-Mesozoic evolution and then diverged to form multiple sub-basins. The original large basin has various names, but is most commonly referred to as the ‘Southern Permian Basin’, which evolved into the ‘Central European Basin System (CEBS)’. The tectonic regimes and sedimentary fill of these Mesozoic structures has been, and continues to be, interesting for hydrocarbon exploration but is also now a key area for geothermal development. Understanding the subtle differences in stratigraphy, sedimentology, tectonics and resultant petroleum systems can help us to unlock further opportunities.


Image c Ben Kilhams

A bit of field study is always welcome, and the meeting started with a day excursion to the Cretaceous deposits of the Weald Basin and North Downs, south of London. Many of the attendees were excited to realise the direct correlation between the sandstones seen here and the subsurface of the West Netherlands Basin under the cities of Rotterdam and The Hague.

Around 65 researchers, national geological survey representatives and industry workers gathered at Burlington House for the main conference. The majority of attendees came from the UK, Netherlands and Germany, along with some researchers from Poland, Austria and Australia. There were keynote overviews from Prof. Ralf Littke of Aachen University (petroleum source rocks of the CEBS), Dr Piotr Krzywiec from the Polish Academy of Science (Tectonic framework of Poland), Dr. Tom McKie of Shell UK (Triassic sedimentary systems), Dr. Grzegorz Pienkowski of the Polish Geological Institute (Jurassic stratigraphy of Northern Europe) and Prof. Jonas Kley of the University of Göttingen (Cretaceous tectonics). The rest of the programme varied from reservoir outcrops on the south of England, tectonics of northern Germany, source rocks across the borders of the Netherlands/Germany/Denmark, geothermal opportunities and enhanced gas recovery by the clever use of injected nitrogen.


Image c. Ben Kilhams

The convenors were very excited to see ideas shared between different countries and institutions, and we have been told of at least three new initiatives arising from these sessions (and probably, if we are honest, the evening wine reception.) From a personal perspective, I worry that the political climate, and especially ‘Brexit’, will mean an end to such meetings. How many more truly international conferences will we see at Burlington House? At the very least, it has been documented that our neighbours see British researchers and companies as higher risk in terms of funding and ongoing collaboration. I hope this turns out to be a pessimistic view.

  • The convenors would like to thank everyone that joined the meeting and made it very successful. We now hope to produce a special publication with contributions welcome from all, including those unable to make it to the meeting. You can find more details of the conference and contact information here.


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