Despite the political upheavals affecting Africa of late, research is still very active, with 7 PhDs currently working within the group, based in the Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences. Over 12 PhDs have graduated from Manchester, and are now mostly working in the oil industry, in companies such as Shell, Statoil, ExxonMobil, BG Group, Occidental.
The North Africa Research Group has a collaborative relationship with its leading oil company sponsors, that support NARG in order to access regional expertise and drive the development of new concepts and field data. The companies take an active part in supporting the students, offering internships and data for analysis. The research also involves strong interaction between the University partners, (Manchester, TU Delft and Heriot Watt) and local institutions in the region, such as Universities and government bodies. NARG actively supports the exchange of knowledge and offers assistance with training. This year 2 staff from Morocco's national oil and gas organization, ONHYM, are undertaking masters research based in SEAES, and others will attend field workshops. Despite the turmoil in Libya, a Libyan student sponsored by the National Oil Corportaion is undertaking a PhD with the group, and new research links are continually being developed with local Universities, such as a new initiative with Tangiers University in Morocco.
Prof Redfern, Director of Research, commented that "Africa is a huge continent, with emerging economies and rapidly growing populations, and there is an urgent focus on accessing indigenous resources to meet ever increasing demand. Our understanding of the geology of Africa is still in its infancy, and huge areas are underexplored. The North Africa Research Group specialises in undertaking major fieldwork campaigns, often in very remote areas, to gather new data. Rock samples are returned to Manchester for analysis using our extensive facilities. We drive the integration of legacy and new data to develop new concepts.
"Our latest major project is examining onshore and offshore Morocco to better understand the depositional systems during the Cretaceous and Jurassic. We are working in close collaboration with ONHYM, the national government research organization, local Universities and our sponsors. The Cretaceous interval (rocks of 120 million year old) have been identified as the main potential targets for hydrocarbon reservoirs offshore, but a key issue is trying to locate where the best sandstones were deposited. With offshore well costs at over $100 million, getting the drilling location right is key to unlocking the offshore oil potential. Whilst our research is not defining the locations to drill (that is the challenging task for the oil companies), improving knowledge of the depositional environments and quantifying our understanding of the drainage systems, the size and location of any feeder river systems during the Cretaceous, is a major contribution to building better models. Our research also has fundamental significance to understanding the evolution of the basin, related to new concepts in plate tectonics and dynamic topography. The ongoing research projects in Morocco are in collaboration with TUDelft. In Manchester the research involves many academic staff from the Basins Studies and Petroleum Geoscience and Engineering Group, including Prof Jonathan Redfern, Dr Stefan Schroeder, Dr David Hodgetts, Dr Mads Huuse, Dr Cathy Hollis and Prof Kevin Taylor."