SERPENT forms new allianceNews // August 23, 2005
Subsea 7 in the Uk has provided Offshore Shipping Online with an update on the Scientific and Environmental ROV Partnership using Existing iNdustrial Technology (SERPENT) project, is a unique collaboration between the oil industry and the world of science.
Since inception in 2002 by founding partners National Oceanography Centre, Southampton, Subsea 7, BP, and Transocean the working partnership has grown steadily to include a number of worldwide organisations including a large number of academic institutes, the latest being Louisiana State University (LSU) School of the Coast and Environment.
The LSU project has received funding from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Office of Ocean Exploration: Using Industrial, Deepwater, Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs) to Census Planktonic Organisms.
The project is a one-year study that will demonstrate the benefits of industrial-academic collaboration to explore the ocean.
The project Principal Investigator is Dr Mark Benfield, Associate Professor, LSU Department of Oceanography & Coastal Sciences.
Mark Benfield explained “This partnership with Subsea 7 through SERPENT is an outstanding way to permit scientific exploration of regions of the ocean that are seldom visited by scientific expeditions. The cost of mounting repeated research expeditions equipped with ROVs of this size and sophistication would be prohibitively expensive. Through SERPENT, we can establish an extended presence over the continental slope where we know very little about the planktonic life that lives in those deep waters.”
Dr Ian Hudson, SERPENT Project Leader at NOCS adds “Linking with local expertise is a core goal of the SERPENT Programme, and the group at LSU are world leaders in the field of planktonic dynamics. Working with Subsea 7 and Transocean in the Gulf of Mexico will provide us with a new research focus in the midwater environment, to complement our extensive project portfolio of seafloor research. We look forward to this collaboration with LSU, and hope this is the start of future projects in the Gulf of Mexico area.”
The project involves the use of ROVs during ‘standby time’ on vessels or rigs, typically used for oil exploration or development. Data is then collated and sent to the SERPENT team at NOCS and their worldwide partners for identification, study and archiving.
The provision of video footage and digital stills photography has resulted in the discovery of several previously unobserved behaviours and several scientific papers have been published as a result of the findings and new species continue to be described from all over the world.
Ian Edmonstone, General Manager of Subsea 7’s Gulf of Mexico Integrated Remote Technology group, said: “The addition of LSU now provides SERPENT with a wider network of active academic collaborations in the USA, in addition to Texas A & M University and taxonomists at the Smithsonian Institute. By growing and expanding the partnership globally we are opening up the possibility of discovering new species and observing differing behavioural traits that challenge previously held assumptions.”