As exploration and production move into ever deeper waters, the tools and techniques for assessing the environmental impacts of deepwater projects are being developed.
This paper outlines the various complimentary techniques that BP Angola is using to describe biodiversity and to monitor the environment in water depths ranging from 1200m to over 2000m. These include:
wide ranging, snap-shot in time benthic surveys, which are targeted based on the geophysical information we have in the area mainly looking at seabed microfauna, using a variety of physical and photographic sampling techniques, including the deployment of BP Angola's deepwater short term environmental platform.
Short range, extended timescale monitoring with Remotely Operated Vehicles of opportunity mainly photographic looking at larger animals, with trials of traps to gather microfauna. The ROV also photographs animals within the water column as it travels between the rig and the well.
Observations of marine mammals, turtles, birds and surface visible fish from seismic and survey vessels.
Long term (25 years) monitoring of deep ocean environmental processes with the deployment of deep sea environmental platforms; a cooperative project involving Scripps Institution of Oceanography, Aberdeen University, Texas A&M University at Galveston and Southampton Oceanographic Centre. These platforms should help us understand the linkages between deepwater biodiversity and climate change.
The data gathered is used in managing the environmental impacts from our operations and also in our Environmental Impact Assessments. In addition,the data is shared with the wider scientific community and used in local capacity building to ensure added value.
The described techniques represent a major step forward in the characterisation of deepwater environments and are applicable in other deepwater areas.