Surveying the Norwegian Seabed

Coral gardens
Coral gardens

In preparation for drilling two new offshore exploration wells on the Slagugle and Warka prospects in Norway, we conducted environmental and habitat assessment surveys of the seabed fauna to identify sensitive species and habitats.

Our biodiversity management approach is designed to manage risks and mitigate impacts to biodiversity, from strategic planning through to field operations. This often includes complying with regulatory requirements to collect data and information on local biological diversity through site assessments and baseline studies. The objective of the habitat assessment survey was to acquire sufficient environmental data to describe all habitats around the planned well location (PWL) and to identify and delineate the extent of any potentially sensitive habitats or species near the PWL, anchor corridors, and relief well locations (RWLs). This included investigating, locating, identifying and evaluating sensitive resources on the seabed that might be disturbed by exploration drilling activities such as sponge communities, cold-water corals and/or other sensitive species/habitats as well as fish spawning grounds.

ROV path
ROV survey paths

Initial side-scan sonar data was reviewed by environmental scientists to ensure the planned path for the remote operated vehicle (ROV) was appropriately positioned around the well and to identify any potential sensitive features that required further investigation. Next, HD video and high-resolution images were collected using the ROV. The ROV conducted seabed scans along four, four-kilometer paths which transected the exploration well position. A further four, 200-meter paths were conducted to transect the two relief well areas. Images were taken every 20-30 meters along each path and reviewed live by a marine ecologist onboard a survey vessel at the surface. Review of the video and still images allowed scientists to assess the condition of sponge and coral habitats and to map the distribution of habitat and species on the seafloor near the well location.

Results from this baseline assessment provided the scientific information for us to execute the drilling projects in 2020 while avoiding impact to coral gardens and minimizing impact to less sensitive habitats through optimal placement of wells and rig anchor lines.