GFZ German research centre for geo sciences

The Barents Sea and Kara Sea region in the European Arctic is due to its hydrocarbon potential since decades in focus of an increasing number of economic and scientific explorations. However, with regard to the complex tectonic history, which has been affected particularly by three overlapping late Precambrian/Paleozoic orogenies (Timanian, Caledonian, Uralian) many questions remain open in understanding large-scale processes behind sedimentary basin evolution in the Barents Sea.

Based on different raw data we develop a 3D structural model of the basin fill, which integrates the sediment thicknesses of the stratigraphical units in a refined resolution than previous models.

We study the controlling factors for salt movements in relation to regional deformation at passive continental margins. The planned research is part of larger research plan of our group addressing deformation mechanisms of salt-bearing basins in general. Specific controlling factors can be eliminated that are characteristically different for post-depositional mobilisation of salt at passive margins, in intra-continental basins and in foreland basins.

A 3D structural model, consistent with geological and geophysical observations, integrates the sedimentary infill as well as the structure of the underlying crust and the lithospheric mantle from the continent over the severely extended continental margin to the oceanic domain. This model provides the base for reconstructions of the post-Jurassic deformation history and for the assessment of the related factors controlling temperature and pressure in the basin.

Fractures and faults play an important role in a variety of fields in geoscience as geomechanical, geotechnical and hydrological applications. Fracture characterization, fluid flow and heat transfer analysis are among other the topics where effort is nowadays focusing. To address these aspects and to come up with feasible answers a multivariate approach is required where different branches of geoscience are integrated.

The project is part of the program MOM (Methane On the Move), which aims at predicting methane migration and emission from the subsurface and evaluating potential climate feedback processes by integrated subsurface, ocean and atmosphere modelling. The aim of this sub-project is to assess the lithosphere-scale thermal field and thus provide the large-scale boundary conditions on a global scale in the frame of the larger MOM project.

Understanding heat transport in sedimentary basins requires an assessment of the regional 3D heat distribution and of the main physical mechanisms responsible for transport of heat. We present 3D numerical simulations of heat transport based on regional 3D structural basin models of the Central European Basin System and assess the relative influence of conductive versus convective heat transfer.

Analysis of the Beaufort-Mackenzie Basin means investigating a petroliferous, remote polar province that evolved from a passive continental margin into a foreland basin at the junction of a Precambrian Shield, a Mesozoic Ocean, and a Mesozoic-Cenozoic orogen. We develop data-based crust-scale 3D models that reproduce the basin-wide structural configuration of the main sedimentary and crystalline crustal units. The inherent distribution of stratigraphic units and physical properties is used for investigations of the present-day thermal field and reconstructions of basin evolution.

The joint research project Geoenergy - GeoEn - concentrates on the examination of four relevant core themes which engage in the climate friendly and sustainable energy supply in the future: CO2 capture and transport, CO2 storage, shale gas (unconventional geo-resource) and geothermal energy.

Renewables still play a minor role in providing energy for mega cities such as Germany’s capital Berlin. One question in the light of an aspired reduction of CO2 emissions is how much deep geothermal energy can contribute to future demands of the world’s largest cities. Based on the configuration of the sediments, the crust, and the lithospheric mantle beneath Berlin, we develop 3D thermal models that are consistent with local temperature data while predicting the subsurface temperature distribution for the entire city. Thereby, we follow two approaches, (i) calculations of the steady-state conductive thermal field and (ii) simulations of coupled fluid flow and heat transport. The final goal of this project is to complement an existing virtual 3D city model of Berlin by approximations of the deep and shallow geothermal potential within the framework of the programme Energy Atlas Berlin - an approach towards establishing urban planning concepts based on linking resources, infrastructure and the future demands of Berlin.

The complex geological and therefore also thermal configuration of the subsurface of the German federal state of Hesse leads to high uncertainties in the planning of geothermal projects. To reduce these uncertainties and the risk of drilling non-productive wells, we want to build an improved 3D structural and thermal model of Hesse

Hot and saline springs have implications for deep geothermal energy exploration and groundwater utilization and contamination and are of great scientific and economic interest. Springs are surface manifestations of coupled processes occurring at depth in the Earth. In this regard, the TVZ and the NEGB represent two end members in terms of the hydrology and thermodynamics encountered.

As a part of the DFG priority program 2017 4D Mountain Building (4D-MB) this project aims to obtain a better understanding of the crust and the uppermost mantle beneath the Alpine orogen and its forelands and to better explain the distribution of deformation and seismicity throughout the region. Therefore, we integrate geoscientific observations with process modelling to predict the 3D lithosphere configuration in the area.

The Kenya Rift is part of the East African Rift System and marks a zone along the African continental plate and is tectonically stretched and thinned, evidenced by earthquake and volcanic activity. We want to understand the controlling factors of present-day and past tectonic deformation. Hence, we assess the structural and strength configuration of the rift system and its surroundings by integrating geological and geophysical observations into 3D numerical models. These data-driven models reveal how the inherited composition of the crust and a thermal anomaly in the mantle interact forming localised zones of tectonic weakness.

The North Alpine Foreland Basin developed since the Tertiary in consequence of the European-Adriatic continental collision. It features today a wedge shape and is filled with erosional products of the Alps (called Molasse). Bordered to the south by the Alps, the Molasse Basin is underlain by Mesozoic deposits, which have accumulated in the Tethys Ocean. This Mesozoic succession includes the karstified upper Jurassic Malm aquifer, which is today highly used for geothermal energy production.

A combined analysis of seismic, gravimetric and well data is used to reveal the tectonic evolution of the Orange Basin and to identify parameters of rifting and basin development.

We analyse the polyphase deformation history of the CEBS (CEBS) and estimate the paleostress states responsible for the observed deformation by performing a field-based fault-slip analysis.

To understand the present day structure and the mechanisms of subsidence at passive margins we assess the first-order configuration of the sediments, crust and upper mantle combining data on the geometry and distribution of physical properties into basin-scale data-based, 3D structural models. The latter subsequently are used as a base for isostatic, 3D gravity and 3D thermal modelling, to evaluate the isostatic state, the density structure as well as the characteristics of the thermal field. Examples from the conjugate South Atlantic margins offshore western South Africa-Namibia and Argentina show that, in spite of sharing several structural similarities, the two South Atlantic margins differ with respect to their structural grain.

Faults are likely to have a significant impact on physical processes controlling the fluid and heat transport in the earth`s interior. Quantifying this impact is important for a successful exploration of geothermal energy which depends on a reliable assessment of the fluid flow and thermal field in the subsurface.

The Upper Rhine Graben is a tectonically active rift system that developed as part of the European Cenozoic Rift System. The basin accommodated a thick package of sediments, which nowadays hosts a significant potential for geothermal energy. In order to utilise this energy resource, it is crucial to understand the temperature distribution and the influence of heat transport mechanisms (including groundwater flow) in the subsurface.

The Western Bredasdorp Basin located on the sheared passive continental margin of southern South Africa has demonstrably active petroleum systems. However, there exists presently a scientific gap between this observation and the temporal and spatial geodynamic behaviour of the margin. By integrating multi-disciplinary data (borehole logs, reflection seismic data, gravity etc.) as well as specific physical laws, we develop numerical 3D models of the crust-scale geology and thermal field. This large-scale data-based approach facilitates better understanding basin evolution and appropriately setting boundary conditions for petroleum systems modelling.

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