The unprecedented success of North American shale gas has lead to a proliferation of international shale gas exploration plays, particularly in Europe. Whilst differing basin geometries and structural geology provide significant local constraints on development strategies, global sea level changes provide a framework by which different stratigraphic intervals can be evaluated at a "continental" level. Using the Hallam Curve we have identified a number of global sea level maxima which correspond to significant periods of prospective gas shale deposition. These typically correspond to periods of relatively high sea level, frequently post-glacial, during which continental shelves were inundated and clastic sediment supply was limited because of the high base level. Under-filled marginal sedimentary basins appear particularly attractive exploration targets. Shales deposited under these conditions typically have geochemical and petrophysical characteristics comparable to North American shales which are currently in production.

Several orogenic events severely influence European shales in terms of organic maturity, hydrocarbon generation and fracture generation, key prospective horizons(in ascending stratigraphical sequence) include the Middle Cambrian Alum Shale, Lower Silurian (Llandovery), the Devonian (Fammenian/Frasnian), Lower Carboniferous (Serpukhovian), Lower Jurassic (Toarcian), the Upper Jurassic (Kimmeridge Clay) and the Tertiary Eocene and Oligocene shales common to central Europe.

This paper will outline the authors initial exploration strategy focusing on three main intervals: Lower Palaeozoic of Central Europe, the Namurian of NW England and the Jurassic Posidonia Formation of the Roer Valley Graben in Holland.

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