Afar Dallol Drilling

Onset of sedimentary processes in an active rift basin

Satellite image of the Danakil depression superimposed on DEM (Aster GDEM product of METI and NASA Landsat 7 & Landsat ETM+) and potential drilling target.

Since the early days of the continental drift theory, the Afar triangle developed into an ideal field laboratory where the onset of continental and potentially future oceanic rifting can be studied in detail. The Danakil Depression is the northern portion of the Afar triangle, bordered to the west by the Nubian Plateau and to the East by the Danakil Horst, and characterized by active rifting since Oligocene times.

The overarching scientific goal is to get insights into the detailed sedimentary facies evolution in an active rift setting paced by global environmental fluctuations and their interplay with volcano-tectonic events. Seismo-stratigraphic interpretations based on industrial seismic sections, core and borehole data evidence the presence of Pleistocene evaporite units until the depth of about 900 m below the Dallol salt pan (central Danakal Depression, northern Afar). However, to date not any sub-salt sedimentary core records are available from the central part of the rift basin filled with more than 5 km of sediments. Having future access to targeted drilling sites in the Danakil basin will give new insights into:

(1) the mechanical understanding of intermittent and incipient basin dynamics in an initial extensive continental rift basin: from rifting towards the development of passive margins, (2) East African climatic changes and Hominin evolution, (3) the limits of the deep biosphere in extreme hypersaline and high-temperature environments below the salt deposits, (4) natural fluid flow in an active geothermal system and (5) monitoring of active faults, earthquakes and volcanic events in remote areas.

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