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  • Product Sheet: Structural geology

Structural geology

Image credit: Federation of American Scientists



Component products

Near Surface Geology



  • Surface geology mapping - mapping geological features
  • Surface geology mapping - structural interpretation
  • Surface geology mapping - terrain evaluation and geo-morphology characterisation
  • Environmental monitoring - baseline historic mapping of environment and ecosystems
  • Environmental monitoring - natural hazard risk analysis

Geo-information requirements

  • Terrain information
  • Topographic information
  • Lithology, geological and structural properties of the near surface


Information on structural geology can be identified from a wide range of EO sensors and tools. DEM analysis is frequently the key method to identify and map structural geological features at the surface/near-surface. DEM analysis complemented by analysis of optical and radar imagery be used to identify and assess these features in greater detail.

Products may include:

  • Shaded-relief maps - beneficial to highlight structural geology (raster product);
  • Geology maps, structural/tectonic maps, fault and discontinuity maps (vector or raster – see associated Faults product), with/without stereo-net plots of structural groupings, mapping of fold structures and calculations of dip angles of strata; and
  • DEM data, for users own analysis.

Efficient and focused fieldwork can result from prior interpretation of structural geology (by establishing relationships between observed geological contacts such as bedding and unconformities and published mapping). Geological structure can be identified at various scales, and be used as input to subsurface structural geological modelling and tectonic reconstructions (including kinematic modelling).

Interpretations can be made of structural geological history (such as identification of compression tectonics, extension tectonics, wind-gaps, raised terraces, inclined river terraces, drainage capture and other associated structural features) that can provide information on rates of tectonic development.

Multispectral optical images can highlight faults and discontinuities (from spectral variation in surface or near sub-surface, e.g., from mineralisation, soil moisture or weathering variation, and by changes in texture, tone or pattern). Thermal imagery can be particularly beneficial to delineate faults in some geographies; notably arid and semi-arid regions.

The structural geology product delivers geology and structural/tectonic maps (complementing the Faults and discontinuities product) and may include shaded-relief maps and additional detailed additional geological outputs (e.g., stereo-net plots, structural groupings, folds and dip angles).

Known restrictions / limitations

Radar-derived products:

  • DEM in vegetated tropical zones typically record vegetation canopy.

Optical-derived Products:

  • Atmospheric effects need to be removed to increase accuracy of interpretation. Dense vegetation cover limits use of techniques and reduces accuracy of interpretation.

Lifecycle stage and demand











Pre-License: Information on structural geology to support decision-making on a prospect.

Exploration: Information to support geological mapping of surface and sub-surface. Provides input features into near surface modelling and helps understand seismic production and seismic data quality’.

Development: Information for planning and design of infrastructure, to support site selection, pipeline routeing and seismic hazard assessment (including active faulting) to determine hazards and risks in a proposed development area.

Production: Not typically required. May be required associated with monitoring of reservoirs and CCS.

Decommissioning: Not typically required other than as a baseline record or if any ongoing monitoring is required.

Geographic coverage and demand

Coverage is global.

Demand is global.

Demand is in all terrain areas.

Challenges Addressed

OTM:015   Geological and terrain base maps for development of environmental baseline

OTM:025   Early identification of potential hydrocarbon basins

OTM:036   Geohazard exposure analysis

OTM:052   Identify the cause of geological movement

HC:2201    Identify geological structure through landform

HC:2401    Identify geohazards and landscape change rates


Input data sources

Optical: VHR1, VHR2, HR1, HR2

Radar: VHR1, VHR2, HR1, HR2, MR1

Supporting data:

  • Geological maps
  • Published literature and reports
  • Digital elevation models (DEM)
  • Airborne geophysics
  • Air photo interpretation

Spatial resolution and coverage

Varies depending on input imagery used and client needs.

Low resolution DEM for basin wide exploration studies, higher resolution DEM and optical imagery for development and infrastructure planning and design.

Minimum Mapping Unit (MMU)

Variable, depending on source data resolution and project requirements.

90 m² (SRTM) to 1 m²

Accuracy / constraints

Thematic accuracy: Based on professional judgement by comparison to field and prior published data.

Spatial accuracy: Varies depending on input imagery and user requirements.

Accuracy assessment approach & quality control measures

Professional judgement by comparison with any published geological mapping, published literature and reports. Typically the product increases accuracy and information knowledge compared with previously sources or published materials.

Field mapping and validation.

Frequency / timeliness

Varies depending on user requirements.

Observation frequency: Typically only one date is required and can be archive data, subject to project requirements.

Timeliness of delivery: Usually off-the-shelf data can be utilised. Commissioned data may be required in some cases, e.g., for collection of VHR1 stereo data used for high resolution DEM production.


Availability from commercial suppliers and other agencies.

New acquisitions can be requested globally for higher resolution data.

Archives products available for public search.

Delivery / output format

Data type:

  • Raster
  • Vector (depending on customer needs)

File format:

  • Geotiff
  • Shapefile or any other OGC standard file formats


 Download product sheet.


Lead author:

Hatfield consultants / Arup

Peer reviewer:

OTM / WesternGeco



Document Title:

Structural Geology

# of Pages:



Internal – Project consortium and science partners


External – ESA

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