Missions - Canada

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Canada map

Overview

Chevron Canada Limited is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Chevron Corporation of San Ramon, California. Since 1938, Chevron has been involved in exploring for, developing, producing and marketing crude oil, natural gas and natural gas liquids in Canada. Headquartered in Calgary, Alberta, Chevron Canada employs more than 300 people. The company is focused on operations offshore in Atlantic Canada, Alberta’s oil sands and in the Western Arctic. To date, SERPENT has been working with Chevron Canada Limited in the deep-water off Newfoundland and hopes to continue this research in the future.

The Canada region includes relatively unexplored deep-sea locations, both from an ecological and an oil and gas perspective. Data obtained from this region will help to identify the organisms that live in this remote deepwater area, assess the operational impact on sediment communities as well as potentially enable examinations on rate of recovery, recolonization and succession.

 

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Research Themes

SERPENT research in the Canada region will include surveys before, during and after drilling operations. The work during these surveys will include a number of different components and the themes below detail some of the research we aim to carry out.

 

Sea floor drill spoil image

Biodiversity and habitat mapping

The assessment of physical impacts on the sediment environment and the associated organisms around the well head can be made visually by carrying out ROV operated video inspections. This involves conducting radiating transects around the well head, and using these data to produce sediment impact maps that help to outline the horizontal extent of the disturbance. The transect data are also used to examine the impact on the megafaunal community around the survey area.

The visual approach of mapping the drill spoil distribution is complemented by the deployment of graduated poles (marker buoys) around the well head. The accumulated sediment along the marker buoys adds a vertical component to the impact assessment.

 

Push core image

Infaunal community composition

It has been noted that there are significant gaps in the data from the Orphan Basin regarding the composition of the infaunal benthic communities. We can investigate organisms that live in the sediment or are too small to be seen on the video (macrofauna) by using ROV sediment push cores and modified Ekman Grabs. Such sediment samplers can be utilised to obtain virtually undisturbed sediment samples from pinpointed locations around the drilling area. These ROV-based surveys can target both impacted and non-impacted areas (as identified by sediment impact maps).

 

Seastar image

Ecological highlights & specimen capture

The scientific purpose of collecting extended close-up video footage and digital stills images is to aid in the identification of the organisms as well as to highlight interesting patterns in their behaviour. Visual footage provides a record of the appearance of animals in life as this can often differ significantly from its appearance as observed from the specimens collected by more traditional benthic trawling methods.

Species level identification requires the collection of actual specimens in virtually all cases. Capturing examples of the dominant fauna can enhance the quality and value of the video surveys. Specimen capture can be done very precisely using a suction sampler, such as a zip pump. Samples of scavenging macrofauna can also be collected in baited traps.


Bioturbation corall image

Settlement plate arrays

The idea with the settlement arrays is to investigate the impact of drilling related disturbance on the settlement rate and preference of local organisms. The trays contain three different types of settlement surface (rock, metal and sponge) with two frames deployed in impacted and two in non-impacted areas. The frames are inspected regularly (once every few days) to monitor the settlement process.

 

Bioturbation corall image

Baited amphipod traps

Amphipods are extremely common in the deep sea and are important scavengers, aiding in the decomposition of dead marine animals. Free swimming scavenging species are notoriously difficult to capture, however the SERPENT scavenger traps have proved very successful on a number of missions. Mackerel or other oily fish is used as bait to attract the amphipods, which enter the chamber through a one-way valve trapping them in the collection tube. The traps are planted into the sediment, but remain free to rotate and align with the current to optimise their trapping efficiency.

 

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Research Locations

Canada

Orphan Basin

Orphan Basin map

The Orphan Basin area is found north of the Grand Banks, about 390km northeast of St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador. The water depth ranges from 500 to 3,000 metres, with the majority of depths between 2,000 and 3,000 metres. The average sea temperatures range from 2.8 degrees centigrade in March to 12.2 degrees centigrade in August, and the project area is prone to sea ice and icebergs.

The Eirik Raude drilling rig is being operated at the Great Barasway F-66 well site in 2,350m water depth by Chevron Canada Limited, on behalf of co-venturers ExxonMobil Canada Ltd., Imperial Oil Resources Ventures Ltd. and Shell Canada Ltd. It offers scientists from SERPENT, Memorial University of Newfoundland and the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans a unique opportunity to utilise a Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) to characterize the local biological communities and improve understanding of how these ecosystems function. New data, including high resolution imagery, will be collected on what actually lives at 2,350 metres water depth in this very remote deepwater area. Data generated by this project will complement the limited surveys conducted previously in the Orphan Basin.