Select Committee on Science and Technology Written Evidence

Memorandum 47

Submission from BP


  1.  BP is organized into three different business segments ie Exploration and production; Refining and marketing; and Gas, power and renewables. Within the Exploration and production or "Upstream" segment, activities include oil and natural gas exploration and production, together with the management of crude oil and natural gas pipelines, processing and export terminals.

  2.  BP currently has exploration and production interests in twenty five countries. Our main areas of activity include the USA, UK, Russia, Norway, Canada, South America, Africa, the Middle East and Asia. These interests are managed in a series of strategic performance units together with central functional support in specific areas of engineering, technology and science from the exploration and production technology group (EPTG). This has its main centres in the US (Houston) and UK (Sunbury-on Thames).

  3.  BP's activities in the marine environment, particularly in terms of marine science and technology, are largely confined to the Exploration and production segment. There are some minor activities in the other two segments but these are not discussed further below.


  4.  EPTG leads BP's Upstream Research and Development (R&D) programme, within which specific areas of engineering and technology are pursued. The 2007 total investment in the EPTG program amounts to around £220m. A major focus for the R&D programme is the development of technologies and expertise in deepwater. This includes the ability to explore and produce oil and gas deposits in water depths of up to 3,000 metres.

  5.  Within this R&D programme, specific interests in marine science and technology include the development of autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs). Work is ongoing to enable AUVs to monitor subsea pipelines with inbuilt intelligent tracking devices. Also included in the technology development programme is research into the deepwater installation of subsea hardware. Since 2001, BP has led a Joint Industry Project (JIP) on this technology, where the water depths (>2,000 metres) necessitate the use of fibre rope deployment systems rather than the traditional steel wire-based systems. This project ("DISH") has 28 companies including nine oil and gas operators, six major contractors and thirteen specialist supply companies.

  6.  BP's central Group Technology function supports strategic research relationships with a range of universities and academies around the globe, including Cambridge University and Imperial College in the UK. In the US, there is a collaborative agreement on ocean sciences and earth climate with the Scripps Institution for Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego. Work there includes development of autonomous underwater "gliders" to monitor the sea temperature, salinity and ocean currents. It is planned to use such devices to monitor the "Loop Current" and its associated eddies in the Gulf of Mexico. These can cause significant operational difficulties for exploration drilling activities and during the installation of offshore facilities. In addition, work is planned to investigate the use of high frequency radar devices to monitor the surface current field from fixed offshore installations. Two such devices, mounted some kilometers apart on adjacent installations, can provide a detailed spatial picture of the surface current speed and direction across a wide area. The primary focus is monitoring the Loop current.

  7.  From the environmental perspective BP is involved in several initiatives and projects related to marine science. Most of these projects aim at gaining a better understanding of the marine environment as well as environmental monitoring. These projects are developed in close collaboration with the scientific community who maintain their independent scientific view. The key areas where BP is involved include seabed and deep water monitoring, seabed surveys and sound and marine mammals.

  Some examples include:


  8.  This is a joint industry effort of on-going monitoring of the seabed West of Shetland (WoS) using remote operated vehicles (ROVs). It has international scientific acclaim with its own website and has published its own scientific papers. BP is a founding partner along with Subsea 7 and Transocean. The project has featured in a number of media publications and broadcasts including the BBC's Blue Planet series. There has been a big drive to develop and promote educational links to schools both in the UK, USA and elsewhere in the world.

  9.  Additionally BP is working with the Natural History Museum on a project in the WoS to study the fate of cetacean carcasses in the deep-sea which have been shown to support novel and new species and allows scientific information to be gathered on how animal communities develop on them.

Seabed Surveys


  10.  Elsewhere in the North Sea BP is revisiting the original environmental baseline surveys and drill cutting piles as part of our response to the EU Liability Directive and to understand long term impacts on the marine environment. With SERPENT we have PhD students based at the National oceanography Centre, Southampton (NOC,S) researching the colonisation of platforms in term of marine life. Other projects include mussel sampling on our southern North Sea gas installations and working jointly with geophysical contractor Gardline Environmental looking at herring spawning grounds around our Amethyst installations. Both these activities are ongoing research.

Deepwater Monitoring

  11.  "DELOS" (Deep ocean Environmental Long term Observatory System) is deep water technology being developed with BP funding in conjunction with OceanLab Aberdeen in partnership with National Oceanographic Centre, Southampton (NOC,S), Aberdeen University, Glasgow University and Texas A and M University. The deep sea environment is still poorly understood with surveys regularly discovering new habitats and communities of animals previously unknown to science. Two sea floor monitoring platforms will be deployed, one within 50 metres of a sea floor well, and a second 5 miles from any sea floor infrastructure. These platforms will be situated off Angola for 25 years and serviced every six months by ROV. The long term monitoring by the DELOS platforms will allow BP, amongst other benefits, to determine long term natural environmental conditions at deepwater sites, compare any changes observed at near field monitoring sites, increase the understanding of mechanisms linking climate change to deep water ecology and improve understanding of the reef effect from large fixed structures in deep water environment

AFEN (Atlantic Frontier Environmental Network)

  12.  This presents data and their interpretation from extensive seafloor environmental surveys carried out in 1996 and 1998 on the UK Atlantic margin to the north and west of Scotland. An area of more than 30,000 km2 of the seafloor was studied, first by using sidescan sonar to provide acoustic imagery of the different environments within the area, then by sampling for biological, chemical and geological analysis, and by photographic and video surveys. The purpose of the work was to provide a regional assessment of this part of the Atlantic margin, and also to provide a baseline against which future changes might be gauged

Post-Doctoral Fellowships

  13.  In the recent past BP (2001) sponsored two, three-year postdoctoral posts in the fields of deep-sea invertebrate taxonomy and biodiversity hosted by the Texas A & M University (USA) and the NOC,S (UK). These two posts were part of a concerted effort by BP to take a leading role in improving our understanding of deep-sea ecosystems. The primary aims of the roles were twofold; firstly to develop and maintain a database of ecological data from BP deep water surveys, and secondly to identify critical needs for improved taxonomy from this database and thus publish taxonomic, biodiversity and other ecological papers on this work.

Marine mammals JIP

  14.  This is a joint effort organised under the auspices of the International Association of Oil and Gas Producers (OGP) in collaboration with the scientific community. It focuses on understanding the possible impacts of sound on marine mammals as well as on mitigation solutions.

Deepwater Engineering

  15.  We also conduct a wide range of research into the engineering of subsea and floating systems required for deepwater production facilities. While much of this is very specific to the energy industries we have developed much expertise in areas of interest to the wider marine community eg vessel motions , mooring and station keeping systems , current induced vortex induced vibrations for long tendons and risers, corrosion in the deep ocean environment . We could present a more comprehensive summary of this work if this was of interest to the Select Committee.


  16.  There is no overarching policy within BP regarding the access of our data on the marine environment for the purposes of scientific research. However, in general terms BP's marine meteorological and oceanographic ("metocean") data is available to the scientific community. This includes data on such parameters as waves, currents, sea temperatures and salinity, and associated marine meteorological information such as winds, air temperatures, atmospheric pressure etc..

  17.  However, one difficulty the scientific community faces is knowing exactly which data sets BP has available. This fact is generally true for the offshore industry on a global basis. To address this issue, several companies, including BP, have joined an initiative organised by OGP. The project is called "SIMORC" (System of Industry Metocean Data for the Offshore and Research Communities). Its funding comes from the EU under a Framework VI programme. The SIMORC system consists of an index metadatabase and a database of actual data sets that together are accessible through the Internet. The index metadatabase is public domain, while access to data is regulated by a dedicated SIMORC Data Protocol. This contains rules for access and use of data sets by scientific users, by oil & gas companies, and by third parties. All metocean data sets in the SIMORC system database undergo quality control and conversion to unified formats, resulting in consistent and high quality, harmonized data sets. BP will make available freely its data sets within SIMORC to registered scientific users.

  18.  Another example of BP sharing metocean data is collaboration with the groups monitoring the fluxes in the Faroe—Shetland Channel. These include the Fisheries Research Services in Aberdeen and the Faroese Fisheries Laboratory in Torshavn, Faroe Islands. Estimation of fluxes has been made for several years and includes measuring the currents and monitoring the temperature and salinity along transects between Scotland and the Faroes on a regular basis. BP have made available to these institutions our long term measurements of currents at our West of Shetland sites, around the Foinaven and Schiehallion production systems, in order to assist with their calculations.

  19.  In the Gulf of Mexico, BP performs detailed monitoring of the ocean current conditions using acoustic Doppler current profilers (ADCP's). In conjunction with other operators, and in collaboration with the US Minerals Management Service, these ADCP data are made available publicly, in real time, at the US National Data Buoy Centre web site.

  21.  In the area of marine meteorology in the North Sea and West of Shetland, BP is collaborating with Shell to extend an existing real-time network of weather monitoring systems (the "Metnet" system). BP's stations are being added in order to extend the spatial coverage. The data include meteorological and wave parameters and are used by the companies to plan operations such as helicopter flights and supply boat schedules. The data are also provided to meteorological agencies to assist in their provision of weather forecasts. The wave data is freely provided to DEFRA and is included on their public internet system ("WaveNet"). Also in conjunction with Shell, we are assisting the Offshore Safety Division of the HSE in establishing wave and water level criteria for the UK sector.

  22.  Very recently, we have started discussions with the Proudman Oceanographic Laboratory to make available water level data from offshore platforms, measured using the radar sensors deployed to monitor waves and water levels. This data could assist a planned research project at POL to examine the spatial variability of storm surge conditions in the North Sea.

  23.  BP has also provided funding for certain scientific advances in the marine sciences. A good example is our sponsorship of the publication of the atlas series linked to the World Ocean Circulation Experiment ("WOCE"). The WOCE project office was based at the then Southampton Oceanography Centre (now NOC,S). In the period 2001 to 2003, BP provided a total of U$300k to assist the publication of the 4 volume atlas series.

July 2007

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