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Drill to revolutionise deep sea work

ICE news

DEEP SEA oil and gas exploration will soon be able to search deeper and cheaper thanks to new drilling technology revealed at the ICE last week.

An innovative deepwater geotechnical tool called the Starfish can drill 30m into the sea bed at a depth of 3,000m, according to contractor Fugro Offshore Site Investigation's Pat Power.

Such depths are only made possible by hydraulic power packs which are used to drive the high pressure water pumps, developed in France by manufacturer Marine Geosystem.

Oil and gas exploration will be able to continue further down the continental shelf into previously unexplored areas thanks to this prototype, explained Power. He claimed the next version will be capable of reaching depths of up to 6000m, which, as long as the quality of the samples can be maintained, will excite the industry.

At present such depths can only be reached using large purpose built exploration vessels, which make the work particularly expensive. Power added: 'If successful, this exciting advancement will bring down the cost of such investigations and could provide a fascinating tool for the future.'

Other speakers at the Offshore Technology Conference debrief on geotechnical aspects included Mick Cook of Hydrosearch, who looked at 3D sonar and multibeam technology. These advanced technologies survey the sea bed for geohazards - areas which pose a risk to life or an increased financial burden - such as shelves and trenches which cause pipe laying problems.

A survey in the Caribbean revealed a 160km seawater slump which would have caused a 7.6m high Tsunami to hit the area now known as South Texas 5,000 to 10,000 years ago.

INFOPLUS www. oes. org. uk

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