The Gulf of Mexico (GoM) was one of the first established areas of offshore oil and gas exploration. Since the 1960's this area has continued to be at the forefront of advanced technology and it is also home to the deepest exploration wells in the world today. The GoM also hosts an amazing array of interesting species and habitats, many of which are still unexplored. SERPENT, in partnership with Chevron, Transocean, Subsea 7 on the Discoverer Deep Seas drill ship and BP's deepwater assets teamed up with Texas A&M University and LSU to explore the midwater and benthic biodiversity of this area.
Using the ROV camera systems and video transects we aim to describe the abundance and diversity of a range of benthic invertebrates and fish. The ability to make detailed observations of the size and geographical distribution will help to examine the depth distributions and extent of these key species.
Being able to watch species in situ using the ROV video systems allows a great deal of extra information to be collected, documenting how a species moves, interacts with its environment and with other species. As a result, new behaviours are being described that can change the perception of how a species may function within an ecosystem. The deepwater assets offer many opportunities for new behavioural and species descriptions within the GoM region.
Collaborating on a project led by LSU, funded by NOAA, we aim to use the redundant ROV video time whilst in transit between the surface and seafloor. Normally the camera would be running during descent and ascent from a work task, and the team at LSU will use this video to examine the species distribution and diversity of zooplankton. The census of marine zooplankton will help to examine the midwater food chains in this area and how they couple to the seafloor.
As part of routine operations, the Minerals Management Service has provided a guide for ROV pilots to make simple transects of the seafloor before and after drilling operations. This footage is used in tandem with more detailed transects for SERPENT and we aim to calculate and habitat-map drilling sites to examine the before and after effects of drilling. Being able to replicate this work at sites all around the GoM will help to build up a comprehensive regional picture of deep water drilling sites.
Starting off with just 1 drilling ship, the Discoverer Deep Seas (DDS), this region is now starting to offer more opportunities for SERPENT and we hope that more images and footage from this area will start to flood into the project over the coming few months.
The DDS has submitted stunning images and footage to the SERPENT project over a continued period, resulting in important discoveries of new marine habitats, species and unique behaviours. Some of this information is documented in the mission reports, and in addition we now add the long awaited DDS video highlights gallery.
Many of the observations made in from the previous mission updates can now be viewed from the original video from which they were taken. Images and footage have been taken from 3 different sites in the deepwater areas of the Gulf of Mexico so far and many more are planned for the future.
Figure 1. Gebco 3D swath bathymetry re-plotted using ARC-GIS to show the 3 sites, Jack (red) at 7,000 ft, Tiger (yellow) at 9,000 ft and Toledo (blue) at 10,000 ft where the DDS has been working for Chevron Texaco as part of their upstream development in the Gulf of Mexico.
See the 3d visualisation fly-through below.
BP Deepwater Assets
BP has a large portfolio of deepwater assets in the GoM. Over the course of this trial project we hope to work with the teams involved in the drilling operations on board the Transocean Marianas, Discoverer Enterprise and Deepwater Horizon. These rigs will be working around the Puma and Atlantis field at water depths up to 2000m.