As discussed in Chalk Facts by C. S. Harris and Scholle et al. (1983), the Chalk Formation consists mostly of coccolith biomicrite. A biomicrite is a limestone composed of fossil debris ("bio") and calcium carbonate mud ("micrite"). The majority of the fossil debris comprising this chalk consists of the microscopic plates, which are called coccoliths, of microscopic green algae known as coccolithophores. In addition to the coccoliths, the fossil debris includes a variable, but minor, percentage of the fragments of foraminifera, ostracods, and mollusks. The coccolithophores lived in the upper part of the water column. When they died, the microscopic calcium carbonate plates, which formed their shells settled downward through the ocean water and accumulated on the ocean bottom to form a thick layer of calcareous ooze, which eventually became the Chalk Formation.
The Chalk Formation usually shows few signs of bedding, other than lines of flint nodules which become common in the upper part. Nodules of the mineral pyrite also occur and are usually oxidized to brown iron oxide on exposed surfaces.
The Middle Chalk averages about 200 feet (60 m) in thickness. Fossils found in the Middle Chalk include the brachiopod Terebratulina and the echinoid Conulus. However, though fossils have been found, they are generally sparse.
The Upper Chalk by comparison is softer than the Middle Chalk and the flint nodules it contains are far more abundant in the South of England, although in Yorkshire the Middle Chalk has the highest concentration of flints. It may contain ammonite and gastropod fossils in some nodular layers. The thickness of the Upper Chalk strata varies greatly, often averaging around 300 feet (95 m). In the Upper Chalk fossils may be abundant and include the bivalve Spondylus, the brachiopods Terebratulina and Gibbithyris, the echinoids Sternotaxis, Micraster, Echinocorys, and Tylocidaris, the crinoid Marsupites, and the small sponge Porosphaera.
The youngest beds of the Upper Chalk formation in England are found on the coast of Norfolk. Other fossils commonly found in the Chalk Formation include: solitary corals (such as Parasmilia), marine worm tubes (such as Rotularia), bryozoans, scattered fragments of starfish, and fish remains (including shark teeth such as Cretolamna and Squalicorax).
Across the North Central and Northern North Sea, the Chalk Group is a major seal unit, overlying a number of blocks of reservoir rocks and preventing their fluid contents from migrating upwards. North of the line of the Mid-North Sea - Ringkobing - Fyn structural high, the Chalk Group is still recognisable in drilled samples, but becomes increasingly muddy northwards. North of the Beryl Embayment (59°30' N 01°30'E), the Chalk Group is a series of slightly to moderately calcareous mudstones grouped under the name of the Shetland Group. With the exception of some thin sandy units in the Inner Moray Firth, this sequence has neither source potential nor reservoir capcaity and is not generally considered a drilling target. Its thickness and homogeneity does make it a common target for carrying out directional drilling manoeuvers.
In the Shearwater and ETAP areas (around 56°30' N 02°30'E , UKCS quadrants 22,23,29 and 30), the Chalk Group can be significantly overpressured. Further South in UKCS quadrant 30 and Norwegian quandrants 1 and 2, this overpressure helps preserve porosity and enables the chalk to be an effective reservoir.
The majority of Chalk reservoirs are redeposited allochthonous beds. These include debris flows and turbidite flows. Porosities can be very high when preserved from diagenesis by early hydrocarbon charge. However, when these hydrocarbons are produced, diagenesis and compaction can re-start which has led to several metres of subsidence at seabed, the collapse of a number of wells, and some extremely expensive remedial work to lift the platforms and re-position them.