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Shell and Oxford University signed a major collaborative research agreement in 2012 in which Shell generously undertook to support fundamental research into the deposition, diagenesis, deformation and geochemistry of mudrocks. This £5.9M investment is for an initial period of 5 years, and allows a major expansion of research activity into the underpinning science behind the exploration for and development of earth resources in the Department of Earth Sciences (the Earth Resources Initiative). Our longer term intention is to build on this initial support from Shell to establish a major research focus for the Department whose primary aim is to seek novel ways for quantifying and unravelling the complex and often coupled processes that give rise to the accumulation of earth resources such as hydrocarbons, water, and mineral deposits, and are critical for the safe disposal of waste fluids or CO2.

The investment covers three broad areas of research and involves a group of about 20 faculty, post-doctoral researchers and D.Phil students and an equivalent number of Shell researchers:

1. Shell Geoscience Laboratory: This is a state-of-the-art laboratory for the interpretation of seismic and other subsurface data and their integration with field and analytical studies. The initial focus of the research programme funded by Shell is on unconventional hydrocarbons, and on fluid flow in sedimentary basins. A major theme in the initial phase is on the development of natural fracture systems in fine-grained sediments, and this is being undertaken in close collaboration with members of the Mudrock Observatory.

2. Mudrock Observatory: This research programme aims to improve our understanding of links between deposition, diagenesis and deformation of mudrocks, and to build on existing expertise in the Department on the links between global climatic events and source rock deposition through continuing analysis of Oceanic Anoxic Events.

3. Metal Isotopes in Marine Sediments: This project will use state of the art isotopic tracers to detect and quantify the presence of the environmental conditions conducive to source rock formation within a sedimentary basin. These tracers will initially be developed for application to organic-lean shallow marine sediments across recognized periods of widespread organic carbon burial in the geological record, and will involve close collaboration with members of the Mudrock Observatory.

We are interested in all aspects of mudrocks in the context of the sedimentary basins in which they are deposited and buried. We welcome collaborations with other interested parties, or suggestions for research projects from young researchers wishing to undertake post-doctoral or doctoral studies at Oxford in this, or in cognate fields.