Volcanic Plumbing Systems

PGP research has been very active on unraveling the dynamics of volcanic plumbing systems. This research theme builds on long-lasting projects on igneous sills in sedimentary basins.

Licancabur Volcano and Laguna Verde, Chile-Bolivia border. Photo: Olivier Galland

About the research

Volcanism represents fundamental forces contributing to heat and mass transfer through the Earth crust. Field and geophysical data in many sedimentary basins worldwide have shown that volcanism is linked with extensive sub-volcanic networks. These igneous plumbing systems (IPS) represent first-order players of basin evolutions as (1) they strongly impact basins thermal evolution, with implications for organic-rich formations maturation, (2) contact metamorphism triggers massive release of greenhouse gases leading to climate change and mass extinction, and (3) small- and large-scale structures associated with IPS deeply impact fluid flow, with implications to groundwater flow and hydrocarbon traps and pathways. Although IPS in sedimentary basins have been widely studied, first-order aspects of their emplacement dynamics are still not understood: (1) there is no unified mechanical model explaining and predicting the formation of the numerous igneous conduit shapes (e.g. dikes, sills, laccoliths, plugs, etc); (2) most existing models of magma emplacement only account for elastic host rocks, whereas geological observations show that substantial plastic and viscous deformation in the host accommodates magma emplacement; (3) most models ignore the magma dynamics, whereas the role of magma viscosity is evident. In order to considerably expand our understanding of the dynamics of IPS, we propose a multidisciplinary project that (1) integrates quantitative fieldwork using state-of-the-art ground-based and aerial photogrammetric outcrop 3D modeling, (2) frontier quantitative laboratory experiments using the latest technical developments at UiO, (3) numerical modeling using Discrete Element Models (DEM) and (4) elasto-plastic theoretical modeling.

Organization of the research

The research on volcanic plumbing systems at PGP has built on several projects funded from different sources:


  • Simon Buckley (UNI Research)
  • Steffi Burchardt (U. Uppsala)
  • Christopher Jackson (Imperial College London)
  • Atle Jensen (Mathematics, UiO)
  • Dougal Jerram (CEED, DougalEarth)
  • Héctor A. Leanza (U. La Plata)
  • Craig Magee (Imperial College London)
  • Régis Mourgues (U. Le Mans)
  • Rikke Pedersen (U. Reykjavik)
  • Sverre Planke (CEED)
  • Julien Scheibert (Ecole Centrale Lyon)
  • Nick Schofield (U. Aberdeen)
  • Kim Senger (UNIS)
  • Juán Bautista Spacapan (U. La Plata)
  • Octavio Palma (U. La Plata-Y-TEC)


For more information about the research on volcanic processes, please visit Olivier's web page

Published Nov. 12, 2013 2:42 PM - Last modified June 22, 2016 2:35 PM


Detailed list of participants