Reading provenance from heavy-mineral suites is hampered by the depletion of diagnostic, but unstable, heavy minerals through intrastratal solution, a common phenomenon in deep sedimentary basins such as the North Sea. This paper demonstrates the potential of electron microprobe analysis in overcoming this problem, by concentrating on the compositional variations shown by detrital garnets, which are relatively resistant to intrastratal solution.

Studies of the garnets from the Brent Group (Middle Jurassic) of the Murchison and Tern oilfields in the northern North Sea reveal that three distinct areas supplied detritus. Association 1 which characterizes the Broom Formation in both areas and recurs higher in the sequence in the Tern field, is ascribed to an Orkney-Shetland source. The location of the areas supplying the garnets of Association 2, best represented in Murchison, and Association 3, common to both fields, is less clear. Their ultimate sources clearly include high-grade metamorphics, and therefore probably lie on the Norwegian landmass, the Orkney-Shetland Platform, or, conceivably, the Scottish landmass, but the possibility of recycling makes it difficult to judge their immediate provenances. Nevertheless, the presence of three garnet associations indicates that the most widely accepted model of Brent sedimentation, with sands derived from a domal uplift in the outer Moray Firth and channelled northward along the Viking Graben, is untenable.