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Depositional Systems in arid, rift-basins. A detailed reappraisal of the distal portion of the Permian, Rotliegend Group in the Dutch Southern North Sea

Department of Geology

About the Project

This project will provide a re-evaluation of the distal portion of the Rotliegend Play Fairway in the Netherlands using subsurface data combined with studies of modern and ancient analogues from the western USA.

The Rotliegend is comprised of a series of parallel facies belts that include alluvial fan deposits around the southern margin which inter-finger with an aeolian and fluvial belt which in turn passes into the lacustrine and sabkha deposits of the Silverpit Formation towards the centre of the basin. While there is an overall long term expansion of the lake through time, the lake deposits interfinger with the aeolian/fluvial deposits as a consequence of short term climate fluctuations, producing complex facies architectures which are poorly understood. The role of structurally generated topography in controlling sediment routing and accommodation, especially in the lower portions of the Rotliegend such as the Havel Sandstone (traditionally considered reservoir poor in the basin centre) are also poorly understood.

The aim of this project is to revisit the distal aeolian pinch-out/zone of inter-fingering in the area around the G-, M- and N-Blocks (eastern part of the Netherlands Offshore, plus adjacent Germany) with a view to highlighting areas of potential reservoir quality sandstones.

The work will involve a re-appraisal of the existing well data and models. A detailed study of modern analogues in the Basin and Range (western USA) will be used to devise a series of models that describe the controls of basin physiography upon fluvial facies proportions and distribution. This will be used to answer key questions such as where are fluvial deposits present within the grabens and why are some grabens filled with thicker successions. Modern analogues studies will be based on satellite imagery with two field seasons to ground truth observations. Outcrop analogue work will be undertaken on the Entrada sandstone in Utah which shows a 150 km long, depositional-dip orientated section passing from Erg centre in the SE into the fully marine deposits of the Curtis Formation in the NW.

The study will be run as a 3-year PhD project at the University of Aberdeen, supervised by John Howell who has 30 years experience working on the Rotliegend, aeolian systems and reservoir analogues. The successful candidate will join the Virtual Outcrop Geology Group, a vibrant team of 20 PhDs students and Post Docs working on a wide variety of projects including several on arid depositional systems. The project is funded by Shell in the Netherlands and there will be significant interaction with their staff.

The Permian Rotliegend is the major gas reservoir in northern Europe. It has been exploited in the Netherlands since 1959 with over 250 active gas fields, the play has been extensively tested. Rotliegend gas is a key part of the energy security of NW Europe, plays a vital role in the energy transition and the reservoirs also have long term CCS potential.

Selection will be made on the basis of academic merit. The successful candidate should have, or expect to obtain, a UK Honours degree at 2.1 or above (or equivalent) in Geology, Earth Sciences or a related discipline.

Essential background: The student should have a strong background in sedimentology and an interest in its application to the subsurface. An MSc in Petroleum Geoscience and/or prior experience in the oil industry would be an advantage but is not essential. A willingness to fieldwork in remote locations is important and a valid driving licence is required.

Knowledge of: Sedimentology, fluvial and lacustrine depositional systems, extensional tectonics.


Formal applications can be completed online: https://www.abdn.ac.uk/pgap/login.php

- Apply for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Geology
- State the name of the lead supervisor as the Name of Proposed Supervisor
- State the exact project title on the application form
- All Degree Certificates/Academic Transcripts (officially translated into English and original)
- 2 Academic References on official headed paper and signed or sent from referees official email address
- Detailed CV
- Confirmation you can meet the difference in fees (if applicable)

If a suitable candidate is found before the closing date of 12 noon on 13 December 2020, the advert will be removed.

The start date of the project is as soon as possible but no later than 1 Feb 2021.

Funding Notes

Applications are welcome from International students. However, any portion of tuition fees not covered by the funding must be met by the applicant. For example, tuition fees for academic year 2020/2021 are £21,000 for International students and £4,407 for UK/EU students (providing EU start before August 2021), which would leave an outstanding amount of £16,593 per annum, to be paid by the applicant

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