Pore Pressure Regimes of the Northern Barents Shelf

Thomas Birchall on fieldwork in Svalbard, investigating rocks.

Top image: PhD candidate Thomas Birchall on fieldwork in Svalbard. Photo: Torsten Hundebøl Hansen. 

PhD candidate Thomas Birchall has studied the pore pressure in the subsoil of the northern parts of the Norwegian Barents Shelf, including the Svalbard archipelago. Birchall will defend his PhD thesis on 2 March 2021.

24 February 2021
Press release from the University Centre in Svalbard (UNIS) and Department of Geosciences, University of Oslo

The ground beneath our feet is anything but dry; there is more water held in Earth’s rocks than all the world’s oceans combined. Fluids in the subsurface are always on the move and understanding this is important in the fields of hydrocarbon exploration, CO2 storage and hydrogeology. Pore pressure is the pressure of fluids found within rock pore spaces and is the principal driver of subsurface fluid movement. Abnormally high pore pressures are a well-documented phenomenon throughout the world, whereas abnormally low pore pressures are rare and poorly understood. The northern Barents shelf provides a globally unique example of the latter, where extremely low pore pressures are observed offshore and onshore.

Thomas Birchall’s PhD research shows that all cases of abnormally low pressure have undergone geologically recent uplift and typically occur at relatively shallow depths. In the Barents shelf, including the High Arctic Svalbard archipelago, low pressures must have developed in the last few thousand years and are in a present state of disequilibrium. Indeed, this disequilibrium has probably driven geologically recent fluid migration and is almost certainly still happening today.

Thomas Birchall will defend his thesis entitled “Pore Pressure Regimes of the Northern Barents Shelf – Implications for Fluid Flow” on 2 March at 13:15 on Zoom at Department of Geosciences, University of Oslo.

More information on the disputation (University of Oslo).

He will have a trial lecture on the same day at 10:15, entitled: “”Integration of state-of-the-art techniques for landslide/quick clay hazard assessment”.

The adjudication committee consists of:
Senior geoscientist Hanneke Verweij, The Netherlands, Professor Christian Hermanrud, University of Bergen, and Professor Nazmul Haque Mondol, University of Oslo.

Thomas Birchall has been supervised by associate Professor Kim Senger, Department of Arctic Geology, UNIS (main supervisor); Professor Alvar Braathen, University of Oslo and Senior geologist Fridtjof Riis, Norwegian Petroleum Directorate.

Thomas Birchall. Photo: Scott Thackrey.
Thomas Birchall. Photo: Scott Thackrey.

About the candidate:
Thomas Birchall is originally from Suffolk in the United Kingdom and completed his undergraduate degree in Geology at Durham University, and his MSc in Petroleum Geoscience at the University of Aberdeen in 2013.

After working in industry in Europe and the USA, Thomas moved to Svalbard in 2017 to take his PhD in the UNIS Department of Arctic Geology in association with the University of Oslo.

Contact information:
Email: thomas.birchall@unis.no


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