Lundin’s seabed research impresses biologists

Lundin Norway is acquiring an unprecedented volume of environmental data from the seabed in connection with exploration drilling in the Barents Sea. The information that has been collected indicates that there is no negative impact on the ecosystems from the drilling activity.

A yellow steel frame packed with metering equipment and sensors is lowered 380 metres to the bottom of the Barents Sea. Never before have we collected more information about the ecosystems and life in the sea around drilling operations than we are receiving from Lundin’s “Lander no1”.

“The data collected by cameras and biological sensors indicate that the organisms on the seabed are not affected during drilling operations. The areas reveal the same biological activity as when we first arrived on the scene,” says petroleum systems analyst in Lundin, Rolando di Primio, who helped develop “the lander”.

Biologists are impressed
Last autumn, the “lander” performed surveys of the seabed during a drilling operation on the Hufsa prospect in the Barents Sea. Most of the results are now available, and indicate that the volumes of plankton and fish have not suffered negative impact from the activity.

“This applies both to the number and type of fish, as well as fish movement and behaviour, from when we start drilling until the rig leaves the area,” says di Primio.

These findings are being watched closely by other oil companies and a number of research institutions. The Arctos research network is applying for funding from the Research Council of Norway through Akvaplan Niva for new surveys, as the project will provide access to valuable data on the marine environment.

“It is important that we know the ecosystems where we work so as to ensure minimal disturbance of the environment, and also that the knowledge gained from the project is shared with as many others as possible. The biologists are impressed when they see what we find. These operations give them access to an enormous volume of data. Never before has so much data been collected on the seabed ecosystems surrounding a drilling operation over such a long period of time,” says di Primio.

The Norwegian authorities set strict requirements for monitoring the environment, which apply to all operating companies on the Shelf. Lundin has always gone the extra mile.

“We have had a systematic commitment to research and development within environmental mapping and ecosystem surveys of the Barents Sea extending all the way back to our first licence award in 2008. This project allows us to illustrate that we continue to be the leader when it comes to environmental surveys,” says di Primio.

Increased chance of discoveries
Since April, the “lander” has been placed on the seabed at Svanefjell in the Barents Sea (PL659), where it has recorded how natural gas leaks affect life on the seabed. The lander will also provide knowledge that can increase the chance of making oil and gas discoveries.

“Such natural gas streams from the seabed can often be related to oil and gas deposits in deeper layers,” says di Primio.

Head of exploration in Lundin, Halvor Jahre, emphasises that research and development are extremely important for the company.

“Both to enhance the value of existing projects, improve operations in new environments and create future opportunities,” says Jahre.

“With this project, we will demonstrate that we take the Barents Sea very seriously. First and foremost as regards the environment, but we also conduct these mapping activities because we believe we can find significant volumes of oil and gas in these areas. The surveys are carried out both to increase knowledge of what is hidden in the subsurface, as well as to improve the design and placement of future infrastructure,” says Jahre.