BGS news

BGS releases first in a series of new offshore maps of the UK seabed 

BGS has released the first high-resolution, offshore map in a new series featuring the seabed around the UK.

17/03/2022 By BGS Press
Alternating limestones and shales of Porthkerry Formation (Jurassic). Dunraven. BGS © UKRI
Alternating limestones and shales of Porthkerry Formation (Jurassic). Dunraven. BGS © UKRI

New combined bedrock, sediment, bedrock structure and seabed geomorphology maps are available from BGS under the fine-scale maps section of the Offshore GeoIndex and are designed to be viewed at 1:10 000 scale or online as downloadable shapefiles.

Based primarily on data produced by UK Civil Hydrography Programme of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency and made available by the UK Hydrographic Office, they are of relevance to offshore developers who require a detailed understanding of the geology of the seabed. The maps include bathymetry data, backscatter imagery, grab samples and other existing datasets such as seismic, marine conservation zones, sediment texture sheets and existing 1:250 000-scale geological maps.

As the UK’s transition to renewable energy gathers pace, these maps will become increasingly valuable to industry and stakeholders with an interest in developing clean energy, from offshore wind to tidal streaming, and in carbon capture and storage.

BGS Seabed Geology 10k - Bristol Channel
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Extent of the new Bristol Channel map. Contains OS data © Crown Copyright and database right 2020. The derived bathymetric layer was produced from Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) data © Crown copyright. Not to be used for navigational purposes.

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The first area to be published this month features a central section of the Bristol Channel, from Swansea Bay to Newport, which is home to the second largest tidal range in the world. The high-energy environment of the channel has attracted much interest in recent years for the use of the seabed for tidal power schemes, including tidal power schemes that have the potential to produce electricity from wave energy.

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Adopting renewable energy and technologies requires a deep understanding of the seabed and so developers have a growing need for access to bathymetric data, enabling more detailed observations of seabed geomorphology that are central to such evaluations.

As well as being of use to offshore developers, the release of our new maps will benefit all kinds of applications: marine spatial planning, technological research and development, fishery resource management, environmental impact studies and climate change models, providing evidence for policy and decision makers.

Prof Emrys Phillips, BGS Quaternary and Glacial Scientist.

While mapping the seabed has been a major challenge for marine geoscientists over the years, the development in acoustic technologies has allowed for the collection of more, and much better resolution, data in much less time.

BGS has plans to release a suite of high-resolution maps in the future, including offshore Anglesey, Yorkshire and East Anglia, and further areas will be added to BGS GeoIndex Offshore as its marine mapping programme progresses.

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This is a great example of using the excellent high quality freely available data collected under the CHP for a different reason from its original purpose and gaining extra geological insights and value from the data.

Mary Mowat, BGS Marine Data Manager

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