Current Student Projects

GNS Science are proud to work alongside many of New Zealand's Universities, and Universities from around the world to provide PhD and MSc funding and supervision of projects. Below we have listed some of our current collaborations:

Structural and sedimentary evolution of the Solander Basin

Rinze Schuurmans, MSc in conjunction with University of Canterbury, Christchurch

The Solander Basin is a frontier petroleum basin nestled between the eastern side of the Alpine Fault and the western side of Stewart Island. Since its inception, the position of the basin has translated from east of the Taranaki Basin to more than 450 km south-westwards along the Alpine Fault. In addition, during the development of the Emerald Basin, the Solander Basin was located at its northern end. This location provides a unique setting for recording and uncovering further evidence of important events in Zealandia’s geological history. Tectonic structures including Cretaceous-Oligocene normal faults and Oligocene-Recent reverse faults and folds have influenced the development of many basins in Zealandia, including Taranaki and Great South basins, which are further away from the Alpine Fault. Structural and seismic facies analyses of Solander Basin will determine how the geometry and kinematics of the tectonic structures contrast with other Zealandia basins. These, along with fault movement and fold growth analyses, will be modelled to uncover the geological events recorded in the Solander Basin. A well constrained history of fault and fold movement in the basin will aid exploration efforts to identify structures containing the reservoir-seal sedimentary facies necessary for elevated probabilities of petroleum accumulation.

The study combines analysis of well, seismic and onshore lithological data from which structures and sedimentary facies are modelled.

The study combines analysis of well, seismic and onshore lithological data from which structures and sedimentary facies are modelled.

Mechanical Properties of Reservoir and Seal Rocks within the Maui and Maari Fields

Sophie Hill, PhD thesis, University of Canterbury, in progress

Defining the geomechanics of a basin is essential for understanding and modelling a petroleum system, in this case the Maui and Maari Fields within the Taranaki Basin. Despite the region being well researched, there still remains an absence of information relating to the geomechanical properties of potential reservoir and seal rocks.
This thesis aims to quantify both index and mechanical rock properties through laboratory testing of reservoirs and seals, from outcrop and industrial core samples. Core plug selection represents a variation in lateral extent, depth, bedding orientation and heterogeneity. Petrophysical analysis will be undertaken to determine microscale geological controls.
The use of defined empirical relationships specific to Taranaki Basin will allow for integration and extrapolation of laboratory data to wireline logs. Furthermore, the upscaling of laboratory derived data to the reservoir scale, based upon facies, will be investigated.

Outcrop analogues of Late Cretaceous and Paleocene Reservoirs. North Cape Formation (Left/Mid) and Farewell Formation (Right).

Outcrop analogues of Late Cretaceous and Paleocene Reservoirs. North Cape Formation (Left/Mid) and Farewell Formation (Right).

Detailed facies analysis and sequence stratigraphy of potential lacustrine source rocks, Greymouth Basin, New Zealand.

Mrinmoy Maitra, PhD thesis, Department of Geological Sciences, University of Canterbury, in progress

Most previous studies of the Greymouth Basin have focused on coal characterization and not the non-coal bearing deposits except where they directly affected the coal. In particular, thick conglomerates in the basin have been relatively ignored. The potential lacustrine source rocks (lacustrine mudstones) have been previously mapped based on the mudstone-rich deep water facies, ignoring the sandier shallow water and carbonaceous shoreline facies which were instead included in the fluvial units. Therefore, the distributions of sedimentary facies across the basin remain uncertain. Detailed facies analysis of these lacustrine mudstones can enlarge the interpreted size of the lakes and increase the volume of potential lacustrine source rocks. The main purpose of this research is to develop a sequence stratigraphic model in order to understand the distribution of lacustrine source rocks and their relationship to different coal bearing members across the Greymouth Basin. These results have a wider relevance regarding sedimentology and basin formation that can be applied to the deeply buried Cretaceous sediments of offshore Taranaki Basin and other Late Cretaceous rift basins in New Zealand.

Sedimentary facies distribution of the Greymouth Basin.

Sedimentary facies distribution of the Greymouth Basin.

Structure and Tectonics of the Canterbury Basin, New Zealand

Andrea Barrier, PhD thesis, University of Canterbury, in progress

The Canterbury Basin is located on the east coast of New Zealand’s South Island. It contains mid to Late Cretaceous syn-rift and Cenozoic post-rift deposits. From the middle Cenozoic onwards, sedimentation was synchronous with convergent tectonics associated with the Pacific-Australia plate boundary.

The thesis will investigate several aspects. The first is to complete a detailed structural assessment of both rift and post-rift evolution of the basin. Seismic structural interpretation and techniques such as displacement back-stripping will be employed to determine fault systems and sub-basin evolution. Secondly, patterns of sedimentation and erosion will be studied to document the depositional environments. Sedimentological analysis will include paleochannel mapping and the production of paleogeographic maps using seismic reflection, well and outcrop data. Finally, the project will examine the evidence for Cenozoic contraction, fault inversion and uplift resulting from plate convergence. Shale porosity evolution with depth from wells and outcrops will be used to characterize the history of basin subsidence and uplift.

The intended results are structural, thickness and regional paleogeographic maps for different key time intervals from the mid Cretaceous to the present day. These results will help to better understand the geological history and petroleum potential of the Canterbury Basin.

Analysis of vertical displacement along a Late Cretaceous NE-SW trending master fault, offshore Canterbury Basin.

Analysis of vertical displacement along a Late Cretaceous NE-SW trending master fault, offshore Canterbury Basin.

Tectonic Evolution and Petroleum System Development in the Great South Basin, New Zealand

Tusar Sahoo, PhD thesis, University of Canterbury, in progress

The tectonic evolution of the Great South Basin (GSB) can be broadly divided into rift, passive margin, and distal active convergent margin phases. This project aims to develop a detailed understanding of the structural and depositional evolution of the offshore GSB using newly available 2D and 3D seismic data. It will investigate scale, timing, and distribution of faults in the Cretaceous–Recent sedimentary succession and how these are related to Gondwana break-up, as well as passive and active margin basin evolution. This project will also investigate the development of petroleum system elements and their quality in the Great South Basin.

: A seismic cross section showing interpretation of seismic facies in terms of petroleum source rock (coaly facies) and reservoir rocks (sands).

: A seismic cross section showing interpretation of seismic facies in terms of petroleum source rock (coaly facies) and reservoir rocks (sands).

Multi-scale characterization of New Zealand's coaly source rocks: Developing a rock physics template for improved seismic mapping and reduced uncertainty in future exploration

Stephen W. Brennan, PhD thesis, School of Environment, University of Auckland, in progress

Coals and carbonaceous (“coaly”) mudstones are the primary sources of oil and gas in most of New Zealand’s sedimentary basins. These types of petroleum source rocks are regionally significant, however; they are less common globally. Our ability to identify and characterize them in the subsurface is a critical component of prospecting for new oil and gas accumulations. Predicting their nature from geophysical measurements (i.e., seismic and wireline logs) is constrained by a lack of calibration between the geophysical attributes of coaly rocks and their physical properties. This study will construct models specific to coaly source rocks for correlating their physical properties, geophysical signatures, and petroleum potential. New Zealand is an excellent location to conduct such a study as it hosts a near complete spectrum of coal ranks (peat through anthracite). Samples will be collected from each of these as well as adjacent lithologies (i.e., shaly coals and coaly mudstones) to experimentally measure and model the seismic signatures resulting from variations in organic versus inorganic sediments, coal rank, and wave anisotropy.

Steve taking a selfie

Steve out in the field

Paleoenvironmental controls on fluid flux in the vicinity of the Waitaki Canyon on the South Canterbury Continental Shelf

Jasper Hoffmann, PhD thesis, University of Otago, in progress

Fluid transportation through focused flow systems is a widespread phenomenon in sedimentary basins. Fluids and gases in the subsurface strata are expelled from compacted or heated sediments. Migration processes, fluid pathways and accumulation areas play important roles in hazard assessment, environmental conservation and fossil energy exploration.

On the seafloor circular depressions often referred to as pockmarks - due to their appearance in seafloor bathymetric imagery - can indicate underlying acoustically transparent fluid pathways. These pockmarks are abundant in the vicinity of the Waitaki Canyon. Recently acquired 3D seismic data together with 2D high resolution boomer seismic data and multibeam imagery will be assessed to get a better understanding on the paleoenvironmental controls on fluid flow in the Canterbury Basin.

Overview map of Canterbury and Otago margin. Pockmarks are abundant on the crests between canyons. The red boxes indicate 3D seismic datasets in the region.

Overview map of Canterbury and Otago margin. Pockmarks are abundant on the crests between canyons. The red boxes indicate 3D seismic datasets in the region.

Provenance of Late Cretaceous and Paleocene sediments of the Southern Taranaki Basin, northwest Nelson, New Zealand

Sarah Smithies, MSc thesis, University of Canterbury, in progress

This project focuses on the composition of the Late Cretaceous Rakopi and North Cape Formations and the Paleocene Farewell Formation in the southern Taranaki Basin, particularly where these units outcrop in northwest Nelson. Characterising the sediment composition involves petrographic descriptions of sandstones, petrographic and geochemical analysis of conglomerate clasts, and XRF, ICP-MS and ICP-OES geochemical analysis of whole rock samples. The composition data is put into a sedimentological context by detailed outcrop description.

From sediment composition, the aim of this project is to better understand sediment provenance and basin paleogeography, and how the changing tectonic setting as Zealandia rifted from Gondwana affected provenance. This will help characterise reservoir distribution and quality in the southern Taranaki Basin.

Collecting Rakopi Formation samples in the Paturau River, northwest Nelson.

Collecting Rakopi Formation samples in the Paturau River, northwest Nelson.

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