By finding and evaluating seabed seepage of oil and gas, geologists can make better decisions about drilling expensive exploratory wells. However, current seep hunting methods are costly and time consuming, and provide inconsistent results. This paper presents a concept for a new seep hunting method that uses systems comprised of existing autonomous technologies, advanced sensors, and remote piloting technologies. By using technologies developed in the oil and gas industry and other sectors, the concept has the potential to completely change the way that seepages are found and analyzed.

The current, prevailing method for seep hunting requires multiple steps, first using autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) to survey the seabed, followed by deployment of large manned service vessels and remotely operated vehicles (ROVs). In contrast, the new approach can discover and analyze seepages in one mobilization, without any need for personnel offshore. The system uses autonomy to deploy surface and underwater vehicles to the site and find seepages, and utilizes remote piloting technology for close-up analysis of the seepage—effectively bringing shore-based geologists to the location of the seepage.

During the past decades, the oil and gas industry has applied a range of new technologies to solve subsea engineering problems, largely for installation and maintenance of offshore infrastructure. These technologies include multi-beam sonar, ROVs, autonomous pipeline inspection vehicle sensors, and satellite communication networks. In addition, research for sensing and analyzing chemicals has pushed subsea sensor technology far beyond what was possible a few years ago.

Many of these new technologies can be combined into completely new ways of exploring for seepages to provide additional data to geologists and reduce the risk of drilling an unsuccessful exploratory well. The new method will be smarter, less expensive, and capable of covering much larger areas of the seabed than current seep hunting techniques. Most importantly, they will offer the geologist the ability to stand onshore behind the ROV pilot and explore the seabed in real time.

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