Earth Systems Modeling: Merlin+


MERLIN+ provides a unique combination of palaeogeography, palaeo-Earth systems and predictive models designed to reduce exploration risk. The identification of viable new exploration opportunities is becoming progressively more difficult and to be ahead of the pack innovative methods are required; MERLIN+ is designed to provide these innovations.

Project Rationale

The Robertson MERLIN Project (2007) focused on the prediction of unknown source facies. It involved a major investment over a 10 year period. In 2012 the original data and methodologies were brought together with new time slice datasets and revised predictive capabilities to form the basis of a new project: MERLIN+.

The goal of MERLIN+ is to reduce exploration risk in under-explored and frontier basins through the prediction of source and reservoir facies. Global subscribers will gain competitive advantage from the use of these innovations and will benefit directly from the initial investment and Robertson intellectual property.

MERLIN+ is based on proven methodologies that have enabled the prediction of source facies globally. Comparison of the MERLIN predictions to known source rock data shows a greater than 80% accuracy, giving confidence to the prediction of source facies for both conventional and unconventional plays. MERLIN+ provides participants with a unique, innovative, data constrained solution that delivers genuine commercial advantage in seeking investment opportunities in under-explored basins.

Project scope

  • Global approach to reducing exploration risk in underexplored and frontier basins.
  • Objectivity: project based on data, rather than models, and therefore necessitating the compilation of an extensive palaeogeographic mapping data resource, including climate proxy data. The project database draws on Robertson’s extensive non-proprietary resources and makes full use of the Robertson global geochemical database (FRogi).
  • Detailed palaeogeographic mapping, guided and constrained by the global geological database, to provide the unique input data to run meaningful Earth systems models.
  • Incorporation of palaeo-Earth systems (palaeoclimate) models, particularly the latest available UK Meteorological Office HadCM3 model. This coupled atmosphere/ocean model (A/OGCM) is one of a new generation of general circulation models (GCMs), which had been tested in the precursor projects.
  • Incorporation of the Imperial College Ocean Model (ICOM), a state-of-the-art global unstructured mesh palaeotidal model.
  • Use of climate proxy data in checking the veracity of palaeo-Earth systems model results, and the use of FRogi geochemical data in assessing the quality of the project source facies predictions.
  • Simple integration into workflows for explorationists.

Plate Wizard

Plate WizardTM plate reconstructions are used to form the base maps for MERLIN+ palaeogeographic mapping. Plate Wizard includes a unique deformable plates capability that has a direct effect on the accuracy of the palaeogeographic maps produced. Plate Wizard is compiled from Robertson's in-house structural database, a vast library of non-proprietary reports and literature from the public domain.

Because Plate Wizard is a key aspect of the project a company-wide, multi-seat Plate Wizard licence is included for all global subscribers.


MERLIN+ includes 18 initial time slice datasets and will be completed in a number of phases initially over a 4 year period.

Schedule of MERLIN+ project (years 1 - 4)


Year 1 (Deliverables available now) - Global data constrained palaeogeography for 6 time slices, underpinned by over 10,000 data points.

  • Palaeo-Earth systems model results
  • Palaeotidal model results
  • Project predictions:
    • Source facies predictions for each time slice
    • Clastic sediment flux predictions for each time slice

Years 2 - 4 - Full suite of deliverables for 4 additional time slices and continued project development, including sensitivity tests and alternative models.

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