Ireland’s Atlantic Margin: An Investigation of the Structure of Magma-rich and Magma-poor Margins using Gravity, Magnetic and Seismic Data

Friday, 19 December 2014
Stephen Rippington1, Jamie Warner2, Jessica Rands2 and Heidi Herbert2, (1)ARKeX, Houston, TX, United States, (2)ARKeX, Cambridge, United Kingdom
Ireland and its continental shelves are located in a structurally complex part of the European North Atlantic Margin. The northern part of the margin (e.g. the Rockall Basin) is considered to be magma-rich, whereas the southern part of the margin (e.g. the Porcupine Basin) is relatively magma-poor. Despite this fundamental difference, the Rockall and Porcupine regions have much in common: both have a dominant structural grain inherited from the Caledonian Orogeny, and were variably deformed by Variscan compression and multiple phases of extension and rifting. Rifting culminated in continental breakup between the North American and European plates in the Paleogene. Following continental breakup, both regions were further deformed by phases of Cenozoic compression, which have been attributed to many different causes, including the Alpine Orogeny.

Hydrocarbon exploration in the region has met with limited success. This is in part due to the complex structure of the margin, and a number of persisting questions regarding the location, age, and nature of potential source and reservoir rocks, and the timing and evolution of structural traps. This study aims to re-evaluate the structural framework that underpins hydrocarbon exploration in the region. The study is based on a compilation of georeferenced maps and cross-sections, a newly merged set of marine gravity and aeromagnetic data, as well as published seismic and public domain data gravity and magnetic data, all of which are integrated in GIS. The integration of seismic and potential field data allows us to use the strengths of these different geophysical methods to investigate the crustal architecture from the seabed to the Moho. Quantitative interpretation of the crust is achieved by 2D gravity and magnetic modelling along key B.I.R.P.S seismic lines in the Rockall and Porcupine basins. These models are used to highlight similarities and differences between these areas and to suggest how the structure of the Irish Margin has developed through the Late Paleozoic, Mesozoic and Cenozoic.