Bernard studied at the University of Oxford, receiving a BA in Geology in 1976. He then came to Keele as a Ph.D. student working on the sedimentology and stratigraphy of red beds in the Westphalian of Central England, in collaboration with the National Coal Board. Between 1980 and 1985 he worked for Shell UK Ltd as an exploration geologist, undertaking wellsite duties in the North Sea and being involved in regional play fairway analysis and detailed prospect mapping leading to the discovery of the Galleon and Ketch gas fields in the UK Southern North Sea. In 1985 he returned to Keele as Lecturer in Sedimentology, where he continued his work into regional controls on late Carboniferous basin development in NW Europe. In 1996 he returned to the oil industry, spending another 5 years with Shell before setting up a freelance consultancy business. In that time he has worked on clastic hydrocarbon reservoirs of all ages and environments, being mainly concerned with the process of translating sedimentological models into numerical reservoir static models that can be used in a meaningful way for reservoir engineering purposes. He has also undertaken several stratigraphic and quality assessments of brick clays in the Late Carboniferous of the English Midlands, being an authority on the geology of the Etruria Formation. Since leaving Keele in 1996 he has continued his association with the Keele geoscience department through his Honorary Fellowship.

Research and scholarship

Bernard has been involved in studies of basin analysis of the Carboniferous throughout his career, which has been marked by the publication of three major reviews of the subject (Besly & Kelling 1998; Besly 1996; and Besly 2018). His research in this area continues, concentrating on the re-interpretation of tectonic and sedimentation history of this Period in the UK through previously confidential seismic, mining and borehole data.

Apart from an obvious focus on the UK onshore and offshore areas, Bernard has undertaken major industry projects in various parts of Russia, in Bangladesh, in the Neogene rifts in Kenya and Uganda, and in the pre-salt basins on the West African margin.

Bernard is a Fellow of the Geological Society of London (GSL).



Besly, B.M. & Cleal, C.J.  2021   Absence of regional stratigraphic hiatus in the late Carboniferous (Asturian – Stephanian) in the northern Variscan foreland: a review of the bio- and lithostratigraphical evidence in central England.  Proceedings of the Geologists’ Association, 132, 50-65

Howell, L., Besly, B., Sooriyathasan, S.,Egan, S., & Leslie, G.  2020   Seismic and borehole-based mapping of the late Carboniferous succession in the Canonbie Coalfield, SW Scotland: evidence for a ‘broken’ Variscan foreland?  Scottish Journal of Geology, 57,

Besly, B.M.  2018   Exploration and development in the Carboniferous of the Southern North Sea: a 30-year retrospective.  In: Monaghan, A. A., Underhill, J. R., Hewett, A. J.& Marshall, J. E. A. (eds), Paleozoic Plays of NW Europe.  Geological Society, London, Special Publications, 471, 17–64

Besly, B., Romain, H.G. & Mountney, N.P.  2018   Reconstruction of linear dunes from ancient aeolian successions using subsurface data: Permian Auk Formation, Central North Sea, UK..  Marine and Petroleum Geology, 91, 1-18

Clarke,H., Turner, P., Bustin, R.M., Riley, N. & Besly, B.  2018   Shale gas resources of the Bowland Basin, NW England: a holistic study.  Petroleum Geoscience, 24, 287-322

Pearce, T.J., Besly, B.M., Wray, D.S. & Wright, D.K.  1999   Chemostratigraphy: a method to improve interwell correlation in barren sequences – a case study using onshore Duckmantian/Stephanian sequences (West Midlands, UK)   Sedimentary Geology, 124, 197-220

Besly, B.M. & Cleal, C.J.  1997   Upper Carboniferous stratigraphy of the West Midlands, (UK), revised in the light of borehole geophysical logs and detrital compositional suites.  Geological Journal, 32, 85-118

Corfield, S.M., Gawthorpe, R.L., Gage, M., Fraser, A.J. & Besly, B.M.  1996   Inversion tectonics of the Variscan foreland of the British Isles.  Journal of the Geological Society, London, 153, 17-32

Besly, B.M. & Collinson, J.D.  1991   Volcanic and tectonic controls of lacustrine and alluvial sedimentation in the Stephanian coal-bearing sequence of the Malpás-Sort Basin, Catalonian Pyrenees.  Sedimentology, 38, 3-26

Besly, B.M. & Fielding, C.R.  1989   Palaeosols in Westphalian coal-bearing and red-bed sequences, Central and Northern England.  Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology,  70, 303-330

Besly, B.M.  1987              Sedimentological evidence for Carboniferous and Early Permian palaeoclimates of Europe. Extrait des Annales de la Société Géologique du Nord  151, 131–43

Besly, B.M. & Turner, P.  1983   Origin of red beds in a moist tropical climate (Etruria Formation, Upper Carboniferous, UK).  In: Wilson, C. (ed), Residual deposits.  Geological Society, London, Special Publications, 471, 17–64


Frenz, T., Besly, B. & Marriott, J.  2020   The Pelican Field, Block 211/26a, UK North Sea.  In: Goffey, G. & Gluyas, J. (eds),   United Kingdom Oil and Gas Fields: 50th Anniversary Commemorative Volume, Geological Society, London, Memoirs, 52, 906-915

Longxun Tang, Gluyas, J., Jones, S. & Besly, B.  2020   The Alma (formerly Argyll/Ardmore) Field, Blocks 30/24 and 30/25a, UK North Sea.  In: Goffey, G. & Gluyas, J. (eds),  United Kingdom Oil and Gas Fields: 50th Anniversary Commemorative Volume, Geological Society, London, Memoirs, 52, 360-370

Besly, B.M. 1998               Carboniferous   In: Glennie, K.W. (ed.) Petroleum Geology of the North Sea: basic concepts and recent advances.  Blackwell, Oxford,  104-136

Besly, B.M., Burley, S.D. & Turner, P.  1993   The late Carboniferous 'Barren Red Bed' play of the Silver Pit area, Southern North Sea. In: Parker, J.R. (ed.) Petroleum Geology of Northwest Europe: Proceedings of the 4th Conference. Geological Society, London, 727-740

Besly, B.M. 1988a             Late Carboniferous sedimentation in northwest Europe: an introduction.  In:  Besly, B.M. & Kelling, G. (eds),  Sedimentation in a synorogenic basin complex: the Upper Carboniferous of Northwest Europe.  Blackie, Glasgow and London, 1-7

Besly, B.M. 1988b             Palaeogeographic implications of late Westphalian to early Permian red-beds, Central England.  In:  Besly, B.M. & Kelling, G. (eds),  Sedimentation in a synorogenic basin complex: the Upper Carboniferous of Northwest Europe.  Blackie, Glasgow and London, 200-221 


Howell, L., Egan, S., Besly, B., Leslie, G. & Sooriyathasan, S.  2020   Repurposing Britain's Coal Measures: insights from seismic and borehole-based mapping, and geothermal modelling.  22nd EGU General Assembly, held online 4-8 May, 2020, 2020EGUGA.22.7205H

Aitken, J., Fryberger, S.,Mohiuddin, U., Al-Hakmani, A., & Besly, B.  2010  678381 Miqrat Formation (Cambrian) a Challenging, Tight Gas Play in Prograding Sheetflood Sands, Sultanate of Oman.  Proceedings GEO 2010, EAGE

Besly, B.M. 2005                Late Carboniferous redbeds of the UK southern North Sea, viewed in a regional context (Extended abstract).  In: Collinson, J.D., Evans, D.J., Holliday, D.W. & Jones, N. S. (eds)   Carboniferous hydrocarbon geology of the Southern North Sea and surrounding onshore areas.  Occasional Publication, Yorkshire Geological Society, 7, 225-226


Waters, C.N., Somerville, I.D., Jones, N.S., Cleal, C.J., Collinson, J.D., Waters, R.A., Besly, B.M., Dean, M.T., Stephenson, M.H., Davies, J.R., Freshney, E.C., Jackson, D.I., Mitchell, W.I., Powell, J.H., Barclay, W.J., Browne, M.A.E., Leveridge, B.E., Long, S.L. & Mclean, D. 2011. A revised correlation of Carboniferous rocks in the British Isles. Geological Society of London, Special Report 26, 186 pp.

Besly, B.M. & Kelling, G. (eds), 1988   Sedimentation in a synorogenic basin complex: the Upper Carboniferous 

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