Sediment profile imaging (SPI) technology characterizes in situ physical, geochemical, and biological seafloor features. SPI was required by Mexico’s Agency for Safety, Energy, and Environment in 2017 for environmental baseline surveys (EBS) of oil lease blocks in the southern Gulf of Mexico. Because of its ability to provide information on benthic community health and the distribution of very thin (down to the centimeter scale) layers of deposited materials, SPI technology is highly effective for mapping drill cuttings or drilling muds released around wellheads during exploration or production and documenting their ecological impacts. SPI technology has not been widely used in the oil and gas industry for EBS or other monitoring activities. A primary objective of this work is to improve the transparency and consistency of the SPI data generation and data management process.
The SPI camera works like an inverted periscope and obtains an undisturbed 21x15-cm cross-sectional image of the upper sediment column. The camera is internally powered and can be deployed rapidly from a standard winch in depths to 4,000 m. Many stations can be sampled in a single day by "pogo-sticking" across a survey area. Sediment grain size, penetration depth, surface boundary roughness, natural and anthropogenic depositional layers, depth of the oxidized surface sediment layer, maximum biogenic mixing depth, and infaunal successional stage can be directly measured at sea or immediately following the cruise. Final SPI data sets can be provided within a few weeks of the survey.
Details on the features measured in SPI images and the underlying interpretive paradigms are presented. To standardize the SPI data generation process, Integral Consulting Inc. has developed 1) a semiautomated image analysis platform, and 2) a SPI data-specific database architecture that allows both numerical and non-numerical metrics to be incorporated into a standard database structure. An integrated, software-based SPI analysis platform has been developed that imports image files and metadata and provides a graphical user interface. The software automatically stores the data, which can then be reviewed for quality assurance, plotted, statistically analyzed, and mapped or exported to other platforms (e.g., Esri ArcGIS©) for further evaluation. Image processing algorithms have been developed using a combination of open-source and commercially available software packages (e.g., MATLAB® and OpenCV) to automatically quantify key parameters.
SPI technology’s underutilization in the oil and gas industry may be in part due to a lack of standardization in the measurement of basic features in SPI images. A primary objective of this work is to develop a streamlined, standardized, and transparent process for generating and managing SPI data.