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Real-time oil seep surveillance in the Gulf of Mexico

Parameters: Oil

In the Gulf of Mexico’s Mississippi Canyon, you’ll find undersea salt domes and mud volcanoes, known sources of natural oil seeps that rise to the surface of the ocean, producing oil slicks. These natural seeps can indicate the presence of energy reserves, both liquid and gas, and are of keen interest to the world’s oil and gas companies. Hydrocarbons that rise to the surface form very thin oil patches and surface slicks that are short lived. Traditionally, satellites along with ship-borne sampling have been used for hydrocarbon detection, but these methods are expensive and have limited ability to capture real-time events. The challenge: how to continuously monitor for these time-sensitive oil seeps in deep waters?

Resulting from a partnership between Liquid Robotics, the inventor of the Wave Glider®, the world’s first wave powered ocean robot, and Turner Designs, an integrated solution for long duration in-situ natural hydrocarbon detection was provided to one of the world’s largest oil companies operating in the Gulf of Mexico. Within the scientific payload was a Turner Designs C3 Submersible Fluorometer with three optical sensors measuring turbidity, chlorophyll and crude oil. The Wave Glider was equipped with computing, communication and navigation hardware, as well as other scientific instrumentation. The integrated system was capable of detecting and surveying surface slicks while transmitting critical data back to mission control.

Together, the Wave Glider and the Turner Designs C3 conducted a long duration seep monitoring mission achieving the following objectives: 1) assess the suitability of a sensor platform for hydrocarbon seep detection and 2) develop automated event detection. After two months in the Gulf of Mexico, this mission established scientific viability for ocean robots to conduct long term monitoring of natural and manmade seeps. The results of the mission demonstrate The Wave Glider’s and Turner Designs’ technological ability to significantly help the Oil and Gas industry find new natural seeps and new energy sources.

Subsea view of the Wave Glider SV3 (Liquid Robotics).

Author: Liquid Robotics & Turner Designs Location: Gulf of Mexico, Mississippi Canyon

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