School of GeoSciences

School of GeoSciences

Adrian Tuitt

The title of my PhD is 'The Timing and Controls of Structural Inversion in the NE Atlantic Margin'. I started my PhD project in September, 2005 and  I am sponsored by the ORSAS (Overseas Research Studentship Award Scheme), the School of Geosciences, University of Edinburgh and the British Geological Survey.  My supervisors are Prof. John Underhill and Dr. Roger Scrutton of the University of Edinburgh and Derek Ritchie, Howard Johnson and Ken Hitchen of the British Geological Survey.


Continental margins were once considered passive in nature.  However, seismic data across the Rockall-Faroe area, in the NE Atlantic Margin,  has revealed the presence of numerous compression-related Cenozoic folds, such as the Hatton Bank, Lousy Bank, Alpin and Wyville Thomson Ridge anticlines, suggesting that active deformation is often pervasive along such margins.  The presence, timing and nature of compressional structures have provided new insights into the controls and effects of contractional deformation in the region. 

Study Area

The Rockall-Faroe study area is located withing the NE Atlantic volcanic continental margin between the UK and Iceland.  Use has been made of 40,000 km of 2-D seismic data (line-length) acquired over the past twenty years extending from the Rockall Plateau to the Faroe Shelf.  Seismic data has been provided by BGS, Fugro, Veritas and GEUS.  Seismic images have been crucial to the mapping of folds and unconformities which define compression.  Unconformities have been dated, using well data, to constrain the ages of compressional structures.  The ages of folding are compared to regional events to establish possible driving mechanisms for compression.  Potential driving mechanisms affecting the NE Atlantic Margin include hotspot-influenced ridge push, and stresses from the Alpine and Pyrenean orogenies.

New Seismic Data

photo photo

In May-June, 2006 I had the opportunity, as part of my study, to participate in a seismic acquisition cruise in order to collect new seismic data over my study area.  Seismic lines were selected by myself and my supervisors to image areas which lacked seismic data, viz. the Lousy, Bill Bailey's and Faroe Banks.  Seismic acquisition was aboard the RRS Charles Darwin.

Gravity Data

In this study, BGS gravity data has been used to contruct gravity models (using the software, GravMag) to discern the potential underlying structures of folds not imaged on seismic data.  This was essential to determine the role of underlying basin morphologies in controlling the orienation of compressional structures.

Finite-Element Modelling

SAVFEMTM (Structural Analysis Via Finite-Element Methodology) (Applied Mechanics Inc.) was used to build a model to determine the forces required for the inversion of a basin.  The model consists of a sediment-filled graben (bounded by normal faults), basement rock (upper crust), lower crust and lithosphere.  The software allows properties to be assigned to elements or grids and simulates their behaviour under compressed.  The modelling results of the inversion of a basin suggests that the observed amplitudes of structures are not solely the result of the reversal of normal fault movement but were most likely achieved by the flexural folding of sediment.

Conferences presented at:

  • Petroleum Geoscience Collaboration Conference, London, UK (24th-25th October, 2006) - Oral
  • Tectonics Studies Group, Glasgow, UK (3rd-5th January, 2007) - Oral
  • AAPG Annual Convention, Long Beach, USA (1st-4th April, 2007) - Poster
  • International Geological Congress, Oslo, Norway (6th-14th August, 2008) - Oral

Future presentations and articles:

  • 7th Petroleum Geology Conference (30th March - 2nd April, 2009) - Poster
  • Article submisssion to the Proceedings of the 7th Petroleum Geology Conference - 'Compression and unconformity formation in the NE Atlantic "Passive" Continental Margin'