Sea bed development opportunities

One of the new UKCS geological factor maps

The BGS is working with The Crown Estate to develop a better understanding of how engineering structures interact with the sea bed geology of the UK Continental Shelf (UKCS), which will support the sustainable development of this natural resource and unlock its value over the long term.

The Crown Estate manages a diverse range of property assets, including managing the UK sea bed for offshore energy, marine aggregate extraction and cables and pipelines. The partnership with the BGS will harness the wealth of geoscience data and knowledge, to better inform the decision making process as well as support academia and research. In particular, this data will help support the UK offshore wind industry, which has seen significant growth to the point where it is already meeting five per cent of UK electricity demand and is on course to meet 10 per cent by 2020.

Sea bed geology

Installation of a wind turbine using a jack-up platform

The geology at and just beneath the sea bed can be highly variable, and can place significant constraints on any engineering structures placed on or into it, such as foundations for wind turbines and other renewable energy installations. The BGS has combined its extensive offshore data holdings with its expertise in marine geology and geohazards to derive a new series of digital maps for The Crown Estate, covering the UKCS up to 200 m water depth.

These maps show how a wide range of geological factors, such as the key characteristics of the bedrock and overlying Quaternary deposits, can place variable constraints on the installation and operation of sea bed infrastructure.

This involved BGS scientists and The Crown Estate's engineering experts working together to understand how different types of foundations (e.g. piles, gravity base) and energy transmission structures (e.g. cables) may interact with different types of geological condition at the sea bed and the shallow sub-sea bed.

Data availability

The BGS and The Crown Estate are making examples of this information freely available through the BGS's OpenGeoscience and The Crown Estate's Marine Data Exchange portals. With this in mind, three of the new geological factor maps that underpin the new sea bed constraints analysis have been published on the BGS's Offshore GeoIndex:

  • bedrock summary lithologies
  • Quaternary deposit summary lithologies
  • Quaternary deposit thickness

The Crown Estate

The Crown Estate is an independent commercial business, created by an Act of Parliament, and returning all its profit to UK Treasury. In addition to actively managing the UK sea bed, its assets also include half the UK foreshore, large areas of rural land, regional retail, Regent Street and much of St James's in central London.


Contact Keith Westhead for further information.