ABERDEEN, UK -- The University of Aberdeen has unveiled the world's first system to monitor deep-sea marine life over the long term. In a pioneering linkup involving industry and leading scientific organizations, two environmental monitoring platforms have been constructed for BP. The platforms will be installed on the ocean floor offshore Angola at a depth of 1,400 m (4,593 ft).
The platforms, called the deep-ocean environmental long-term observatory system (DELOS), will provide information on the deepwater environment over the next 25 years. The subsea platforms will allow patterns of activity for underwater creatures to be observed and will act as an environmental gauge for BP
The platforms, each weighing 12 metric tons (13 tons), are being placed in BP's block 18. One will be sited within 50 m (164 ft) of a wellhead. The other DELOS will be 5 mi (8 km) from offshore activity.
"BP has a substantial portfolio of assets in deepwater areas and it is growing all the time," says Jim Clarke, project manager of Local Environmental Impact at BP. "Technological developments are allowing us to explore in deeper and deeper water. At the same time, there is limited understanding of impacts beyond the continental shelf, both from the industry side as well as within the scientific community. We hope DELOS will go some way to redress that."
The platforms comprise two parts, a sea floor docking station that remains on the sea floor and a number of removable observatory modules designed to perform specific environmental monitoring functions.
The modules have been designed with sufficient capacity and battery power to function for six months. Remotely operated vehicles then will recover the modules from the docking stations and take them to the surface to download data to and to service the modules.
Dr. Phil Bagley of Oceanlab is responsible for the design of DELOS, which was created using non-corrosive glass reinforced plastic, a material that has never before been used at these depths and in this way.
"This is an exciting opportunity that builds upon our 20 years of experience of designing and building deep ocean systems for biological research and is a valuable asset to our increasing commercial business," Bagley says. "Driven by BP's forward looking approach to environmental issues, the long-term monitoring platform will provide scientists with insights into any impact of offshore activities, contribute to an increased understanding of the mechanisms linking climate change to deep-ocean ecology, and provide a long-term source of data for deep ocean scientific research."
DELOS is a collaborative project involving BP, the University of Aberdeen's Oceanlab, National Oceanographic Centre in Southampton, University of Glasgow, Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute in California, Texas A&M University, and the Angolan National Institute of Fisheries Research (Instituto Nacional de Investigação Pesqueira).