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QUADRAT DTP CASE: The interaction between carbonates, igneous intrusions and CO2 in the ocean system

Project Description

Contact metamorphism of carbonaceous sedimentary rocks can lead to the release of significant volumes of gases, particularly CO2 and related fluids. Such fluids have the potential to impose serious impacts on the global climate. Conservative estimates of CO2 generation from basins with carbonate hosted intrusions are in the region of 40-70 billion tonnes, compared with the human output of CO2 per year sitting at almost half that at 37 billion tonnes. A significant portion of this CO2 will be sequestered by the oceans, this drawdown being further driven by oceanic circulation and present and future carbonate-related sedimentation. Drawdown of CO2 into calcareous formations is pervasive in the geological record, with differing depositional regimes of carbonate precipitation including both chemical and biogenic calcareous precipitation. The composition of natural carbonates are mineralogically and geochemically variable, as are the magma types that may intrude them. Consequently, carbonates might be expected to exhibit a range of responses to the intrusion of igneous rocks of differing compositions and temperatures. This in turn will result in a spectrum of potential CO2 and related fluid generation which in turn will change the balance of CO2 feedbacks in the ocean system.

This project focusses on both field and lab-based techniques to provide a detailed understanding of the relationships between intruded carbonates, gas release and oceanic circulation. Metamorphic aureoles around intrusions are excellent natural laboratories for studying thermal alteration of sedimentary materials and related fluids. Metamorphic index minerals, fluid inclusion analyses of silicate/carbonate minerals and Raman spectroscopic analyses of carbonaceous materials will be combined to produce geothermometric data. These data will be collated with gas generation potential calibrated against known sources of carbon within different host rocks and then fed into computational models for oceanic drawdown and circulation of CO2 through time. A better understanding of these processes, along with how they may vary in time and in association with past and future global climate change is crucial for better understanding the feedbacks and potential critical thresholds in this key earth systems element.

The student will build upon the expertise of Muirhead (Raman spectroscopy; organic geochemistry; carbon alteration through geological processes), O’Driscoll (O’Driscoll (modelling of ocean circulation, and impacts of anthropogenic pollution on ocean systems, including pollutant fate, transport, cycling and uptake and exchange processes in marine ecosystems), Hole (igneous petrology, volcanology and large igneous provinces) and Millett (igneous petrology, volcanologist and volcanic borehole specialist). The student will have access to world-class analytical facilities at both the University of Aberdeen and Queens University, Belfast. This project will integrate the student with a strong PhD community in both institutions with a focus on basin-scale volcanic processes and marine resource management. The student will also have the opportunity to interact with industry partners specializing in integrated volcanic basin studies including expertise in magma-host rock interactions and modelling (VBPR).

This project is supported by Volcanic Basin Petroleum Research as a CASE partner.


Candidates should have (or expect to achieve) a minimum of a 2.1 Honours degree in a relevant subject. Applicants with a minimum of a 2.2 Honours degree may be considered providing they have a Distinction at Master’s level.


• Apply for Degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Geosciences
• State name of the lead supervisor as ‘Name of Proposed Supervisor’ on application
• State ‘QUADRAT DTP’ as Intended Source of Funding
• Select to apply now

Funding Notes

This project is funded by the NERC QUADRAT-DTP and is available to UK/EU nationals who meet the UKRI eligibility criteria. Please visit View Website for more information.

The studentship provides funding for tuition fees, stipend and a research training and support grant subject to eligibility.

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