New Energy

Collaboration Opens Doors to New Technology and Markets

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The energy transition brings new challenges and opportunities that require a broader technology portfolio and PGS is collaborating with others to expand its solutions set.

OFG’s multiphysics offerings, expertise, and attitude are a good match. Innovation is a core concept for both companies, says Dr. Lucy MacGregor, Principal Geoscientist at OFG.

Ocean Floor Geophysics Inc. (OFG), a Vancouver-based company, was formed in 2007 to develop and implement technology to find and characterize seafloor mineral deposits. Early development resulted in a range of innovative electric and magnetic sensors deployed from autonomous underwater vehicles and remotely operated vehicles. Since then, OFG has extended its technology and services to address clients’ subsea surveying challenges across a range of markets, including the renewables, oil and gas, defense, and minerals sectors. Their collaboration with PGS started in 2020, with the transfer of PGS’ towed-streamer EM technology to OFG in return for an ownership position in the company.

Global Multiphysics Expertise

OFG differentiates itself by bringing together teams of domain experts in CSEM, magnetics, electrical and acoustic methods who work with highly experienced subsea operations experts and engineers to design, build and operate complex sensor systems deployed from ROV, AUV, unmanned surface vehicles (USVs) and surface vessels.

The results are rich multiphysics datasets, which OFG interprets to meet and exceed survey objectives in a safe, efficient, and environmentally sensitive fashion. Examples of OFG projects are evidence of the global scope of the company: 

  • Global | Inspecting pipelines and infrastructure - OFG’s proprietary non-contact cathodic protection inspection (iCP) system provides a significant improvement in inspection efficiency over traditional methods, directly measuring corrosion and corrosion protection activity. The technology allows rapid inspection of cathodic protection systems integrity and is deployed from either an ROV or AUV platform. As it is less expensive, more frequent inspection is a cost-effective option, reducing the risk of premature asset failure. Projects have been undertaken for oil majors globally, including recent projects in Australia, the Gulf of Mexico and West Africa, with further work commencing shortly in Brazil.

  • Global | Seafloor mineral exploration – Since 2007, OFG has been involved in 24 surveys on seafloor massive sulfide (SMS) deposits, collecting acoustic, electric, magnetic and electromagnetic data to find and characterize these resources. Offshore Norway, OFG has participated in three mineral mapping surveys conducted by NPD since 2018. Other projects include mapping SMS deposits in Japan, Papua New Guinea, Fiji, and Tonga.

  • Global | Site surveys and hazard mapping – OFG undertakes the acquisition, processing, and interpretation of site survey data using AUV-mounted acoustic and magnetic technology, for both geotechnical characterization and hazard mapping. Applications have included oil and gas site and route surveys, pre-installation surveys at wind farm sites, and along cable routes around the world, including Norway, Brazil, Cyprus, USA, and Turkey.

  • Japan | Finding gas hydrates – Acquisition of over 1500 line-km of deep-towed CSEM data in Japan, to detect and characterize marine gas hydrates as both a resource and a hazard.

  • Canada | Defense – OFG has developed an approach to ship-signature characterization, using its proprietary AUV-mounted self-compensating magnetometer. This allows a signature to be determined while a vessel is at sea, without the need to travel to a specialized nearshore range, representing a dramatic improvement in both efficiency and safety.

Measuring Up for Energy Transition

In collaboration, PGS and OFG technology provide reliable measurements at a range of scales and depths that is uniquely suited to an energy market in transition. From large-scale seismic and towed-streamer CSEM surveys to the ultra-high-resolution sampling of the shallow subsurface using AUV acoustic, CSEM, and magnetic methods, this represents the broadest range of marine geophysical data, technology, and services in the industry today, capable of addressing a wide range of client challenges and requirements.

A multiphysics approach, combining data acquired at different scales and merging different geophysical and geological data sets, adds value and context to all the available data. The results can be presented in a manner that is directly understandable to end-users.

New Markets for EM

The collaboration between OFG and PGS started with towed-streamer EM. The controlled-source electromagnetic (CSEM) system was developed for applications in oil and gas exploration and appraisal, however, there is growing interest in the CSEM method for other applications. These include mapping and characterizing offshore freshwater reservoirs or monitoring CO2 in offshore storage sites. The combination of OFG CSEM and PGS seismic technology in multiphysics quantitative interpretation workflows is particularly powerful, allowing sub-surface rock and fluid properties to be constrained far better than using either dataset in isolation.

Windfarm Development | Faster Turnaround & Reduced Risk

The OFG-PGS collaboration is also bearing fruit in the pre-installation surveying of wind farm sites, with a survey strategy that offers wind-farm developers an opportunity to substantially shorten the overall timetable and cost for site investigation, while reducing project risk and increasing the quality and robustness of pre-construction engineering decisions. This is achieved through a holistic approach to data collection, data management and knowledge delivery across acquisition scales and physical measurements.

By collecting rich multiphysics datasets in parallel, rather than sequentially, the overall timescale from project proposal to energy production can be reduced. Integrating these data provides a living ground model, updated throughout a windfarm development project, that delivers actionable knowledge to development teams, built upon an integrated interpretation of multiphysics and geotechnical data. This reduces uncertainty, cost and delays. This approach, which uses robust, tested technology, is gaining traction in the windfarm industry: project discussions are underway with multiple clients.

Minerals | Powering Energy Transition

It seems likely that Norway will issue exploration licenses for seafloor minerals in 2023, pending an analysis of environmental consequences. A low carbon future calls for additional metals supply, which can be met by marine mineral extraction. This is an area with a wide range of exploration, characterization, and environmental challenges, and once again an innovative combination of PGS and OFG technologies is highly relevant. The exploration playbook for seafloor massive sulfide (SMS) ore bodies is similar to that used in oil and gas.

In the first stage, large areas will have to be screened to find those that are potentially prospective. Efficient screening at a regional scale is territory that is familiar to PGS. Once identified, ultra-high-resolution mapping will be required to understand the geometry and properties of any sulfide bodies identified. OFG is highly experienced at acquiring the detailed information required for this second phase of exploration using AUV and ROV-based technology. Taken together, OFG and PGS technology can span the scales of SMS exploration and ore characterization.

Acoustic solutions are available for various scales and resolution requirements. OFG also delivers CSEM measurements that are used across all scales and sectors.

Shared Commitment to Quality

The collaboration between OFG and PGS is built on a common set of values and goals. World-class geophysical and engineering expertise from both sides is combined with a tenacious problem-solving spirit to address challenging imaging, characterization, and monitoring problems. Together, PGS and OFG cover the space from large-scale towed seismic and CSEM surveys to ultra-high-resolution acoustic, seismic, CSEM, and magnetic measurements made from ROV or AUV platforms. This unique combination of technology and expertise opens the door to innovation across a range of markets from oil and gas to renewables and beyond. The companies are discussing joint growth strategies to take further advantage of these opportunities.


Thank you to Dr. Lucy MacGregor of Ocean Floor Geophysics Inc for this article.

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