Seismic Acquisition: Going the Extra Environmental Mile

A successful Socotra cormorant breeding colony is shown with breeding osprey nearby.

Laws and national oil companies’ codes of practice stipulate requirements to manage waste, limit physical environmental damage, and enact antipollution procedures. These requirements are well-known within the oil and gas industry, regardless of geographical location.

Laws in the emirate of Abu Dhabi exist for the protection of the environment and the species therein. The Environment Agency—Abu Dhabi also was established in 1996 for the protection of the environment. In addition, the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) has comprehensive, rigorous, and established codes of practice that were substantially revised in 2014. Finally, all quality geophysical and seismic acquisition contractors have robust health, safety, and environment management systems that complement mandated legislation and client codes of practice.

Historically, the emirate’s existing marine mammal environmental mitigation plans used for offshore seismic surveys were based loosely on third-party health, safety, and environmental impact assessment requirements and stipulated Joint National Conservation Council guidelines that are applicable to deepwater towed-streamer operations. The extensive transition zone areas of Abu Dhabi cannot accommodate towed-streamer acquisition inside approximately 100 km of the shoreline because of shallow water, islands, and shoals.

The authors of this paper were of the opinion that, where mitigation instruction was only partially applicable, contract and health, safety, and environment complications were likely. This was found to be the case. The authors hypothesized that, through thorough and rigorous analysis of environmental data collection, specific mitigation instructions better suited to seismic acquisition could be formed and made relevant to the survey areas. Further, data collection used for progressive mitigation purposes and used as proof of effect could also enhance environmental knowledge known to be data deficient. 

From 2014 to 2017, 3D transition zone seismic surveys were conducted in the Marawah Marine Protected Area, a United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization World Heritage Area that contains several environmental sensitivities and protected species. These include the second largest known population of dugong (Dugong dugon), nesting sites of the hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata), and approximately 10–12% of the world population of Socotra cormorant (Phalacrocorax nigrogularis). Each of those species appear on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature Red List.

The authors approached the marine environmental mitigation issue to improve existing instruction so that mitigation was applicable and robust and could be used in a final form as technical guidance notes for future shallow-water seismic surveys.

The authors suggest that the value of environmental monitoring during seismic acquisition can extend further than merely compliance and observation of required environmental mitigation. This paper show that the design and application of a comprehensive environmental monitoring program, in association with an obliging seismic contractor, can bring specific and substantial environmental benefits, extend working relationships with environment agencies and other offshore stakeholders, and bring a heightened environmental awareness within the industry and environmental community.

Find the paper on the HSSE-SR Technical Discipline Page free for a limited time. 



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