Lead Research Organisation: University of Manchester
Department Name: Earth Atmospheric and Env Sciences


The intensification of the global glacial-interglacial cycle at the onset of the Quaternary (~2.6 Ma) was a critical tipping-point in Earth's recent climate history. The increased severity of cold conditions at the Plio-Pleistocene boundary triggered the development of large-scale continental ice sheets in the Northern Hemisphere. Since then, the North Sea Basin (NSB) experienced multiple glacial-interglacial cycles in terrestrial and shallow marine settings. Unlike the onshore record, the NSB uniquely preserves an almost complete record of glacial erosion and deposition from European ice sheets, as well as sediment input from large rivers systems. This dynamic growth and retreat of ice sheets bordering the NSB, and its subsidence history, have resulted in a thick Quaternary sedimentary sequence containing a detailed stratigraphic record of Northern Hemisphere environmental change. Relatively little is known about global Quaternary ice sheet fluctuations except for estimates on global ice volume with poor chronological control. There is evidence that Quaternary ice sheets generated strong feedback loops that subsequently affected the evolution of the global climate system through complex ocean-atmosphere-cryosphere linkages. Thus, the Quaternary sedimentary sequence preserved in the North Sea is a significant palaeo-climate archive capturing environmental changes across millions of years. As the NSB is a mature petroleum basin, it is covered by extensive seismic and borehole data. The NSB is covered by the North Sea which is a shallow (generally <120 m deep) epicontinental sea, deepening towards its northern margin and the Norwegian Channel. The bathymetry requires drilling using a Mission Specific Platform such as a jack-up rig, generally limited to water depths shallower than 120 m.

We propose to create a suite of virtual site surveys that push the Quaternary understanding of the NSB by incorporating the wealth of new data and models that have arisen over the past five years since the GLACISTORE proposal. These new data and models provide a much firmer basis for testing overarching hypotheses on climate evolution, drivers and feedbacks and the implications of the late Cenozoic succession for CO2 containment. The new data include some 130,000 km2 of 3D seismic data and many hundreds of boreholes (mainly cuttings and geophysical logs available in the Late Cenozoic). Additionally, recent studies have outlined the main Pleistocene depocentres for the NSB and provide an excellent starting point for determining potential locations for drill sites.

The main aim of CenoStore is to recover the highest resolution Quaternary deep shelf record of mid- to mid-high latitude climatic and environmental variation in the eastern Hemisphere. The aim of this virtual site survey is therefore to identify zones of high sediment accumulation rates and stratigraphic completeness in the mud prone lower clinothem slope positions away from submarine channels and fans (readily detectable on 3D seismic attribute maps) with key objectives to: 1) Identify zones (3D areas) of suitable drilling targets in terms of water- and subsurface depth, stratigraphic time, thickness and facies. 2) Construct stratigraphically bound maps of drilling hazards associated with shallow gas or boulders. 3) Identify sites that optimally address scientific objectives (a) whilst being accessible to safely recover in terms of hazards (b) and licensing and infrastructure restrictions.

With almost continuous 3D seismic coverage and hundreds of exploration borehole records, the site selection will be very well constrained in terms of target zones and exclusion zones due to hazards, leading to very low risk and high reward sites with a predictable stratigraphic range and completeness, ideal for palaeo-climate reconstructions.


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Description We analysed some 60,000 km3 of the subsurface beneath the North Sea and identified the optimal places to drill to retrieve a complete record of NW European climate and environments for the last 2.8 Million years - the two sites are in the central and northern part of the Central North Sea Basin. These records will tell us about past climatic and ecological changes and inform the way we think about future changes under extreme climatic change. The two optimal locations, and three alternate sites for each, were discussed at a Magellan Workshop 11-13 Jan 2023, and will be proposed for a 65 day drilling expedition by the International Ocean Discovery Programme, using a Mission Specific Platform. The pre-proposal for IODP is to be submitted by April 2023.
Exploitation Route The stratigraphic framework will be published and will be of use to industry in planning offshore carbon storage and petroleum exploration.
Other academic workers can use the framework to calibrate observations made elsewhere in the basin in terms of age and regional setting.
Sectors Energy,Environment

URL https://www.ecord.org/?ddownload=16232
Description Magellan Plus Workshop
Amount € 15,000 (EUR)
Organisation Queen's University Belfast 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 01/2023 
End 02/2023
Title CenoStore workflow 
Description A methodology was developed to convert large amounts of 3D seismic data and interpretation into sedimentation rate maps and overlapping minimum rate 'sweet spots' which could be targeted by drilling a minimum of boreholes. The novelty is the time-efficient use of extensive 3D seismic data coupled with data from wells in a very data rich area to define the ibjectively most optimal drilling locations. 
Type Of Material Data analysis technique 
Year Produced 2023 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact The methodology objectively identified suitable and optimal drilling locations within a 60,000 km2 broadly suitable area of the North Sea 
Description BGS 
Organisation British Geological Survey
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Collaborate around the CenoStore award and subsequent Magellan workshop and IODP pre proposal
Collaborator Contribution BGS members H Stewart and M Stewart collaborated in weekly meetings for CenoStore and co-submitted Magellan award and participated in workshop and IODP pre proposal writing
Impact Magellan workshop and report
Start Year 2021
Description Queens University Belfast 
Organisation Queen's University Belfast
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We collaborate over the implementation of a virtual site survey for IODP via weekly work meetings (online). Co-led Magellan workshop at QUB in Jan 2023
Collaborator Contribution QUB senior lecturer Andrew Newton collaborated over the implementation of a virtual site survey for IODP via weekly work meetings (online). AN led the application for a Magellan workshop and hosted this in Jan 2023
Impact Magellan workshop and report
Start Year 2021
Description TNO 
Organisation Netherlands Organization for Applied Scientific Research (TNO)
Country Netherlands 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Occasional project meetings, co-lead Magellan workshop proposal and IODP pre proposal
Collaborator Contribution Input to Magellan workshop proposal and IODP pre proposal and access to dataset from NL offshore
Impact Magellan workshop
Start Year 2022