DIPS - Dynamics of Igneous Plumbing Systems in Sedimentary Basins

Volcanism represents fundamental forces (heat and mass transfer) through the Earth’s crust that shape the Earth’s surface, influence the global climate and trigger mass extinctions. Most existing models of Volcanic plumbing systems (VPS) in sedimentary basins are too simplistic on critical aspects: (i) they ignore the magma dynamics, although magmas of contrasting viscosities give rise to very different conduit shapes; (ii) the modeled host rocks are elastic, whereas geological observations and seismic images reveal substantial visco-plastic deformation associated with intrusions; (iii) the mechanical coupling between the viscous magma and the deforming host rock is lacking.

In DIPS we aim to build a new comprehensive mechanical model of VPS in sedimentary basins that integrates (i) the realistic complex rheology of the host rocks with (ii) the viscous dynamics of compositionally diverse magmas.

VPS: Schematic diagram of Volcanic Plumbing Systems illustrating the diversity and complexity of volcanic conduits. Model: DIPS project team

VPS: Schematic diagram of Volcanic Plumbing Systems illustrating the diversity and complexity of volcanic conduits. Model: DIPS project team

About the project

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 Volcanic plumbing systems (VPS) have tremendous implications on (1) the gas flux for the volcanic system feeding the climate system, (2) the maturation, circulation and trapping of hydrocarbons in sedimentary basins, (3) the location and violence of volcanic eruptions, and (4) the formation of massive ore deposits.

Although VPS 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 VPS, 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. This project has the ambition to develop a new generation of mechanical model of magma emplacement in sedimentary basins that realistically accounts for the complexity of geological systems.


The primary aim of the DIPS - Dynamics of  Igneous Plumbing Systems in Sedimentary Basins - is to bring our understanding of the dynamics of igneous plumbing systems to an unprecedented level by designing an innovative, multidisciplinary model which brings together both

  • (1) the complex visco-elasto-plastic behavior of the host rock and
  • (2) the viscous dynamics of the magma
  • (3) the coupling between magma and host rock dynamics

The secondary goals are to:

  • Unravel the dynamics of dyke and sill propagation by testing whether the classic LEFM theory or the viscous indenter model is the most relevant;
  • Constrain the inelastic versus elastic deformation associated with igneous intrusions emplacement;
  • Simulate the broad variety of igneous intrusion shapes, and predicting under which condition they form, in a unifying mechanical model of magma emplacement in the Earth crust;
  • Build a world-leading research group centered in Norway at the core of a team gathering renown international experts;
  • Communicate the project results to the scientific community, the public and the petroleum industry.


  • WP 1: Observations in a field case study: the Neuquén Basin, Argentina
  • WP 2: Seismic interpretation
  • WP 3: Quantitative 3D and 2D laboratory modelling
  • WP 4: Theoretical and numerical modelling
  • WP 5: Results integration and communication


This project is financed through the FRIPRO programme of the Norwegian Research Council.


The University of Oslo (UiO) is hosting this project, which is led by Dr Olivier Galland, in the Physics of Geological Processes Group (GEO-PGP), Department of Geosciences. Other scientists on the UiO team are Karen Mair, Sverre Planke and Dougal Jerram, Centre for Earth Evolution and Dynamics, CEED (CEO) and Anders Malthe-Sørenssen (Department of Physics).

The project links and integrates various complementary expertise from distinct research groups and departments at University of Oslo.

In addition to this UiO multi-disciplinary research team, the project team will cooperate with national and international institutions (researchers):

  • Uni Research, Bergen (Dr. Buckley)
  • The Argentine CONICET (Dr. Leanza)
  • University of La Plata (J. Spacapan)
  • University of Uppsala (Dr. Burchardt)
  • University of Maine (Prof. Mourgues)
  • University of Aberdeen (Dr. Schofield)
  • Ecole Centrale de Lyon (Dr. Scheibert)

This group of scientists ensures the integration of various results at the interface between field geology, laboratory, numerical and theoretical modeling and will ensure excellent international network and competence building for Norwegian research.


Published Dec. 9, 2015 1:03 PM - Last modified Dec. 9, 2015 1:37 PM