Control of Aptian palaeobathymetry on turbidite distribution in the Buchan Graben, Outer Moray Firth, Central North Sea

T. E. Aas*, J. A. Howell, M. Janocko, C. A.L. Jackson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)


It is widely recognised that palaeobathymetry is a key control on the distribution of turbidite deposits. Thus, the utilisation of palaeobathymetric surfaces as an input for numerical turbidity current modelling offers a potentially powerful method to predict the distribution of deep marine sands in ancient (subsurface or outcrop) successions. Such an approach has been tested on an Aptian turbidite deposit from the Buchan Graben, UK Central North Sea, where modelled sand distributions could be quality controlled against available well data. Palaeobathymetric (base Aptian sand) surfaces are re-created from a surface-based 3D model by stepwise backstripping of post-Aptian overburden and removal of the post-depositional structural overprint. Key input parameters such as: (i) initial porosity and compaction factor assigned to the overburden and underburden; (ii) the restoration of structural overprint; and (iii) the crustal response to removal of overburden (Airy vs. Flexural Isostasy), are associated with significant uncertainty. Thus, to assess this uncertainty, various palaeobathymetric surfaces are re-created by systematically modelling extreme values of individual input parameters. The effects of single input parameter variability on output surface morphology are quantified by spatial comparison of appropriate surfaces. Out of the 20 palaeobathymetric surfaces that were re-created, three were selected as input for process-based, numerical turbidity current simulations. The simulation software (Flow 3D™) uses computational-fluid-dynamics (CFD) to model depositional patterns, while the effects of flow turbulence are simulated using the renormalization-group (RNG) model. The location of flow introduction into the model (sediment input point) as well as flow input parameters (volume of sediment, duration of flow, velocity, height and width) are fixed for all three surfaces to ensure that differences in flow behaviour and sand distribution can be attributed to spatial variations between input surfaces alone. Simulated sand distributions were compared against sand thicknesses from well data to indicate the reliability of the three palaeobathymetric surface geometries.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)412-434
Number of pages23
JournalMarine and Petroleum Geology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2010

Bibliographical note

ConocoPhillips are acknowledged for providing the seismic dataset that has been used for this work. Statoil Petroleum AS is thanked for covering costs associated with publication, and Midland Valley is acknowledged for arranging a licence-package that allowed us to re-create palaeobathymetric surfaces using 3DMove5.0a. Ian Kane and one anonymous reviewer are thanked for their constructive feedback.


  • Backstripping
  • Britannia Sandstone
  • Buchan Graben
  • Palaeobathymetric surfaces
  • Sand prediction
  • Structural restoration
  • Turbidite modelling


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