Boaty McBoatface investigating end-of-life North Sea oil fields to back net-zero path

The UK’s National Oceanography Centre (NOC) has kicked off research on end-of-life oil fields in the North Sea using the robot submarine Boaty McBoatface with the aim of helping monitor and protect the marine environment and support industry transition towards net-zero targets.

Source: NOC

The Autosub Long-Range (ALR) ocean robot submarine will be launched from the shore in Shetland to carry out environmental assessments at two decommissioning sites in the northern North Sea, the NW Hutton and Miller.

Boaty McBoatface will take photos of the seabed, which will be automatically stitched together to make a map of the seafloor, structures and animals present, and will return around ten days later with the survey information onboard.

Besides the decommissioned sites, the robot will visit the Braemar Pockmarks Marine Protected Area known to have natural leaks of gas to check if it can reliably detect a leak if it occurs in the future.

On return to shore, the project team will examine the obtained data and compare it to that gathered using standard survey vessel methods and will test if the same environmental trends can be identified from both datasets to determine if the automated approach would be a suitable replacement for standard survey vessel operations.

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The initiative is part of the Autonomous Techniques for infraStructure Ecological Assessment (AT-SEA) project which aims to provide future-proof solutions for the oil industry focusing on the need to reach better net-zero targets.

“The overall goal of the project is to improve the environmental protection of the North Sea at a reduced cost and impact to the environment. We aim to demonstrate how this leading robotic technology from the NOC could be used worldwide to support this crucial ocean monitoring,” said project lead for AT-SEA, Dr. Daniel Jones from NOC.

“This technology has the potential to change the way marine surveys are carried out in the future. Autonomous submarines could offer many advantages over current approaches; improving the quality and quantity of environmental information while cutting the cost and environmental impact for a survey ship and its crew.”

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