Seismic fleet targets 3D and 4D high-end surveys

Paul Boughton
Responsible exploration of new frontiers is made possible with the latest maritime advances. Christian Fenwick reports.

In In less than two months time, Polarcus Nadia, the first vessel in Polarcus'distinctive,ultra-modern six-vessel fleet, will be operational. Specifically targeting the high-end 3D towed marine seismic market these unique and purpose-built vessels are at the forefront of maritime and seismic innovation. The Polarcus fleet incorporates the increasingly recognisable lines of the ULSTEIN X-BOW hull. But not all X-BOW's are the same by any means. There are three vessel classes in the Polarcus fleet, each with the distinctive hull form that delivers a smoother and more fuel efficient passage but also incorporating other important design characteristics. One such example is the ICE-1A notation that is specifically granted to ships capable of operating in ice conditions of 0.8m level ice thickness. Four of the company's vessels will carry this notation.

Although it is not possible to acquire seismic in such heavy ice conditions, the notation means that these vessels are well equipped to handle safely the long transit to and from survey locations in the Arctic through potentially ice-prone seas, enabling operators to make the most of the short seismic operating season.

The expansion of the industry into frontier and environmentally sensitive areas is expected to drive a much higher level of environmental compliance worldwide as legislation on emissions to air and water are continuously updated or introduced. In several countries, for example in Australia and Canada, this legislation is already well established. With this fleet Dubai based Polarcus is well positioned to meet both current and future operational demands as the industry moves ever deeper into more environmentally and technically challenging waters. Polarcus' worldwide service capabilities encompass conventional 3D surveys, sophisticated wide- and multi-azimuth projects, high-density 4D development surveys, and marine seismic operations in new frontier regions, such as the promising Arctic Ocean where, according to recent USGS studies, undiscovered reserves equivalent to 17 per cent of the world's currently known reserves could still lie awaiting discovery.

'Green' technologies

The ultra-modern vessels of the Polarcus fleet, with the investments in 'green' technologies and the associated company commitment to a pioneering environmental agenda, are designed to help Polarcus' clients to work safely and efficiently within these constraints. Featuring the Det Norske Veritas (DNV) CLEAN-DESIGN notation, and with all Polarcus' vessels running on low-sulphur marine gas oil, the company aims to operate their fleet with the lowest environmental footprint in the industry.

The vessels are also built with a double hull, hence there are no fuel tanks adjacent to the vessels' external hulls thereby reducing the risk of spillage into the environment in the case of a collision. For the Arctic this is a significant safety consideration as well as an environmental benefit, ensuring the vessels have improved floatability characteristics.

The lastest generation bilge cleaning and ballast water treatment technologies, the latter using the International Maritime Organisation's (IMO) first type approved and 100 per cent chemical free system from Alfa Laval, will minimise the risk of pollution and eliminate the spread of foreign invasive species across the oceans. This spreading of species has been recently identified by the IMO as one of the four greatest threats to the world's oceans. In addition, the vessels carry the NAUT-AW notation that indicates the vessels are equipped to avoid bridge system failures by addressing both technical and human-related issues, with a particular emphasis on tasks related to navigation in narrow and congested waters, as well as areas with complex offshore infrastructure. Statistical data have shown that grounding and collisions account for almost 50 per cent of all serious shipping incidents and the majority of these are categorised as being due to human error.

The Arctic Ocean has an abundance of rich and varied sealife, including many species of marine mammals. The proximity of seismic operations to these animals and the effects that the source arrays might have on their wellbeing has long been studied and debated. While research into this subject is still ongoing, mammal disturbance mitigation will continue to be a high priority for Polarcus.

In addition to complying with the applicable local regulatory requirements for the protection of marine mammals in or around seismic operations, Polarcus has committed to apply globally the Joint Nature Conservation Committee's (JNCC) soft start procedures for the seismic sources and is the first seismic company to make a passive acoustic monitoring (PAM) system, designed to detect the presence of marine mammals by listening for their calls, available to clients on all the company's seismic vessels.

Polarcus is also a sponsor and active participant in the IAGC Global Sound and Marine Life Workgroup and the OGP IAGC E&P Sound & Marine Life Task Force.

Geophysical excellence is another top priority for Polarcus. The in-house geophysical team has developed a low volume source array with a 2900cu in output that displays an acoustic performance normally associated with much larger sources.

The company also provides high-end geophysical solutions in survey design and onboard QC, and has formed a partnership with GX Technology to offer clients a full seismic data service solution for faster project turnaround.

Respect for the environment

In launching Polarcus, a credible alternative is being offered to oil and gas companies in a market traditionally dominated by a very few large service companies, an alternative that aims to combine maritime innovation, management experience and operational excellence with a deep respect for the environment. Polarcus believes that this will be the start of a new dawn in the seismic service industry.

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Christian Fenwick is with Polarcus DMCC, Dubai, United Arab Emirates.


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