The bedrock electrical conductivity structure of Northern Ireland
- Publisher: Oxford University Press
An airborne geophysical survey of the whole of Northern Ireland has provided over 4.8 M estimates of the bedrock conductivity over the wide range of geological formations present. This study investigates how such data can be used to provide additional knowledge in relation to existing digital geological map information. A by-product of the analysis is a simplification of the spatially aggregated information obtained in such surveys. The methodology used is a GIS-based attribution of the conductivity estimates using a lithological classification of the bedrock formations. A 1:250k geological classification of the data is performed leading to a 56 unit lithological and geostatistical analysis of the conductivity information. The central moments (medians) of the classified data are used to provide a new digital bedrock conductivity map of Northern Ireland with values ranging from 0.32 to 41.36 mS m–1. This baseline map of conductivities displays a strong correspondence with an existing 4 quadrant, chrono-geological description of Northern Ireland. Once defined, the baseline conductivity map allows departures from the norm to be assessed across each specific lithological unit. Bulk electrical conductivity is controlled by a number of petrophysical parameters and it is their variation that is assessed by the procedures employed. The igneous rocks are found to display the largest variability in conductivity values and many of the statistical distributions are multi-modal. A sequence of low-value modes in these data are associated with intrusives within volcanic complexes. These and much older Neoproterzoic rocks appear to represent very low porosity formations that may be the product of rapid cooling during emplacement. By way of contrast, extensive flood basalts (the Antrim lavas) record a well-defined and much higher median value (12.24 mS m–1) although they display complex spatial behaviour in detail. Sedimentary rocks appear to follow the broad behaviours anticipated by standard theoretical descriptions of rock electrical properties that allow for a term due to grain surface conduction (e.g. the presence of clay). Single lithology sedimentary rocks are represented by an increasing set of conductivities through the sequence sandstone (4.91 mS m–1), limestone (8.41 mS m–1) and mudstone (17.85 mS m–1) with argillaceous rocks providing a conductivity of 41.1 mS m–1. In the case of both sandstone and limestone, the single lithology conductivities are significantly less than their mixed lithology counterparts. Mudrocks display a bimodal statistical distribution and an extended analysis of these rocks is carried out across a Carboniferous basin. The results clearly indicate that non-shale mudstones are distinctly less conductive than their shale counterparts. Shale formations display rapid and large movements in conductivity and it is suggested that the observed sensitivity may be due to competing surface conduction effects due to clay and organic material. A study of the variation of conductivity with geological period is also performed. Both a decreasing trend with age and a modulation that peaks in the Triassic period are observed.