Azerbaijan becomes participant in megaproject for study of active tectonics and earthquakes

The project is designed for three years with a start date of 1 September 2021

Baku, July 17, AZERTAC

Azerbaijan has become a participant in a megaproject for the study of active tectonics and earthquakes in a vast territory stretching from China through the Tien Shan mountains to Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Iran and Turkey. Azerbaijan's participation in this serious project creates an excellent opportunity for cooperation between young Azerbaijani scientists of the Azerbaijan National Academy of Sciences (ANAS) and those from Oxford and Cambridge universities, as well as leading specialists of bp. The research will provide important data on the history of geological development, detailed mapping of active tectonic processes, seismic activity and potential natural risks in study areas and adjacent territories.

The following is an interview with Greg Riley, Vice President for Exploration and Appraisal at bp-Azerbaijan, who has extensive experience in the Caspian region, knows its geology very well and manages the project on behalf of bp.

-Mr. Riley, how did the idea of Azerbaijan joining this mega-project come about? How did you manage to bring together specialists from such important institutions as ANAS, Oxford and Cambridge Universities of the UK, and bp?

-It is actually quite interesting how it all happened. As you know, the oil and gas industry is about science and engineering.

Azerbaijan's joining this mega-project was initiated by Professor Rashid Javanshir, a world-renowned scientist and corresponding member of ANAS who, before joining bp, was Deputy Director for Science at the Institute of Problems of Deep Oil and Gas Fields of ANAS, where he pioneered the signing of joint research agreements with Canadian, US and UK companies. He has published over 200 books and articles, was regional editor for the “EnergySources” (USA) journal and a member of the editorial board of the Journal of Petroleum Science and Engineering (Netherlands). He held senior positions in bp, including the roles of Business Manager for the southern part of the North Sea (Scotland) in 2003-2006, Regional President for Azerbaijan-Georgia-Turkey in 2009-2012, and Senior Vice President for Strategy and Integration of bp (London) in 2012-2015.

Rashid Javanshir has drawn on his unique experience and worked with Azerbaijani and UK academic communities to organize this important collaboration.

I would also like to note the highly qualified group of scientists from ANAS headed by the Vice-President of ANAS, Academician Ibrahim Guliyev, and from the UK headed by Professor Richard Walker – both world-renowned and dedicated scientists.

Ibrahim Guliyev has always been a supporter of cooperation with the world's largest scientific centers. He is open to discussion and is a dynamic scientist who attaches great importance to working with young scholars.

The technical capacity of ANAS as a scientific center possessing modern equipment and the successful experience of cooperating with the world’s scientific institutions on similar projects instills confidence in us that research within this project will be carried out at the highest level.

I would like to note that Dr. Mike Daly, who was previously responsible for global geological exploration at bp, is involved in this project in collaboration with the University of Oxford in the UK. There is no doubt that his experience and knowledge will be a great help in the implementation of the project.

So this project is the result of the strong enthusiasm of scientists who remain committed to the development of advanced science and international scientific cooperation.

-The study of seismic and tectonic processes is particularly relevant for regions prone to earthquakes and active tectonic processes. The recent eruption of a mud volcano in an area where there are many oil and gas fields in the Caspian Sea is further evidence of that. What are the main goals of this project in our country?

-Joint research in Azerbaijan and the Caspian Sea is part of a much broader community and international consortium of scientists.

The proposed research program includes the study of the history of tectonic development, active tectonics, earthquakes, possible natural risks and hazards in the South Caspian basin and adjacent areas. The program includes a full range of studies – from the interpretation of offshore seismic data to tectonic geomorphology and paleoseismology onshore.

The study of the tectonic history and development of the South Caspian basin will be carried out through the analysis and interpretation of seismic reflection and existing seismological data. This includes a database of earthquakes, gravimetric and magnetometric data. For example, there are plans to study the history of geological development and map the main structural elements along the Northern Absheron-Absheron-the Kura River line.

Ground surveys will provide results on the history of tectonic development, active tectonics, forecasting possible earthquakes and potential risks and hazards associated with them both for residential settlements and for the region’s critical infrastructure, including pipelines.

The results of such research will be multifaceted. The effective collection of information on tectonic processes in the Earth and earthquakes will provide a better understanding of the deep geological processes where two geological bodies collide. This collision is the result of the convergence of two massive geological plates, which causes movement in the Earth's crust and deep-lying regions, which, in turn, provokes earthquakes. A better understanding of these processes can potentially be of help in predicting the frequency and location of a potential earthquake.

-Why is it important for bp to participate in such joint seismological and geophysical research?

This is a research project, and we welcome such projects. The information to be obtained about seismic and tectonic processes occurring both in the Caspian basin and onshore is important for the company's work because it can help us to better understand the hydrocarbon basin from which we extract oil and gas.

I think that the more scientists collaborate and work towards the goals set in this project, the better it is for us in the long term. As long-term partners with Azerbaijan, we also benefit from a better common understanding.

In addition, this is a good opportunity to cooperate and share experience with young Azerbaijani scientists.

I would also like to note that two young Azerbaijani geologists are participating in this project on behalf of bp.

-The first online workshop “Joint study of active tectonics and earthquakes in Azerbaijan and the South Caspian” was held within the project framework in March this year. Online meetings are being held. When is specific work expected to begin, in particular fieldwork?

-The project is designed for three years with a start date of 1 September 2021. The first online seminar in March, organized by the University of Oxford, the ANAS Department of Earth Sciences and the ANAS National Center for Seismological Service, served as a start for discussions. The meeting was moderated by Rashid Javanshir, who represents both parties in the project as a professor and employee of Oxford University and the National Academy of Sciences of Azerbaijan.

Fieldwork and research group meetings will take place every project year. They will be complemented by meetings of partners with bp and ANAS.

Paleoseismic studies will be carried out in the West Caspian fault zone. The faults stretch from the coast southwards, so we can relate coastal and marine constraints in location, velocity, seismic potential, and tectonic history.

In the foothills of the Caucasus, field studies are expected to determine the sliding velocity of faults and paleoseismic history, and assess the likely maximum magnitudes in order to evaluate potential risks and hazards.

In the second and third years of the project, more specific study areas of interest in Azerbaijan will be identified and a detailed map of active faults will be developed.

A joint report on the progress of the work done and the results obtained will be presented at the end of the first and second project years, while the final report will be prepared at the end of the third year of research.

There is extensive and interesting work in store for all project participants. There is no doubt that the goals set within the project framework will be met at the highest level.

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