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Continental Margin Process Analysis, Structures & Stratigraphy

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South Atlantic Plate Modelling and Static Paleostress Atlas.

Supervisors: Dr Graeme Eagles, Prof Peter Burgess and Dr Marta Pérez-Gussinyé

At the detailed scale, petroleum systems of the extended continental margins bordering the South Atlantic are products of long term interaction of sedimentation and tectonics within syn- and post-rift basins. Predictions required for successful hydrocarbon exploration depend on an understanding of the tectonic and sedimentary evolution of these basins. This evolution plays out in basins that initiate and grow in response to plate tectonic processes that can be modelled with numerical- and analogue-based techniques. Such modelling approaches require reliable estimates of crustal displacement velocity and paleostress conditions at key times during the fragmentation of West Gondwana into distinct South American and African plates. Estimates can be calculated, for chosen snapshots in time, from the starting point of tectonic maps of the evolving plate boundaries where many of the forces that govern a plate’s internal stress state are generated. This PhD project will focus on generation of paleostress and displacement velocity snapshots generated by manipulating a new plate kinematic model, recently constructed at Royal Holloway, to generate tectonic maps. Suitable parameterizations for plate boundary forces will be chosen from the literature or generated according to the project’s requirements. The results will be used as boundary conditions for margin-evolution and margin initiation models being developed by COMPASS researchers involved in PhD2, which in turn will provide feedback for refining the plate kinematic model and associated tectonic maps.

Specific deliverables of the PhD project are:

  • Plate-kinematic model of Gondwana break-up
  • Paleostress atlas of South Atlantic conjugate margins
  • Mechanical boundary conditions for lithospheric stretching models
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Plate boundary forces, relative velocity field and schematic representation of plate driving forces during the early Cretaceous stage of Gondwana break-up and South Atlantic opening.

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