Fugro-Geoteam AS, one of the industry leaders in marine seismic acquisition was contracted by Edison International SpA to acquire what would turn out to be a very challenging 3D multi-azimuth seismic survey of the Mediterranean coast of Egypt in the North Abu Qir licence offshore Egypt. The North Abu Qir Concession is located 20km north of the Abu Qir gas field, which is 42 km north east of Alexandria. The survey area was approximately 350 sq. km and to be acquired with 3 azimuths of headings 000, 060 and 300 totalling approximately 1000 sq. km of acquired data.
The vessel employed was Fugro-Geoteam’s R/V Geo Natuna which during several previous projects in India and elsewhere had built up a high level of confidence and experience in tackling such challenging surveys. Some of these main challenges posed for the vessel and crew were acquiring multi-streamer seismic data in shallow waters down to 12m, with significant levels of fishing activity to be negotiated and thrown into the mix was the additional issue of the two Abu Production Platforms, (NAQ P-1D and NAF1/NAF2) which in order to achieve full coverage beneath the platforms had to be undershot with the aid of a second source vessel.
The client’s main objectives were to improve the imaging on existing sub-standard data by producing a modern high-quality, high fold, full coverage dataset imaging multi-target reservoirs down to a two way travel time of seven seconds whilst maintaining high resolution imaging of the more shallow targets. Needless to say all this had to be done maintaining high levels of QHSE and keeping to a strict time schedule.
Additionally, the area was also known for its traffic going to and coming from several ports such as Alexandria, Abu Qir and Port Said as well as the busy traffic lanes entering and exiting the Suez Canal.
Of primary concern and in order to ensure safety of the vessel and crew, a bathymetry survey of the area was carried out prior to deployment of the seismic equipment. The survey, conducted by Fugro Geoteam’s sister company Fugro Survey Egypt, was performed in October 2010 covering water depths ranging from 12 to 28m. The main aim of the survey was to provide a detailed bathymetry, identifying and describing natural and manmade seabed features and to verify the positions of any surface obstructions or hazards across the site. A key criterion was to confirm discrepancies between the existing Admiralty Charts and previously acquired bathymetric data from an Ocean bottom Cable survey.
Several wrecks, wellheads, a spoil-heap and two exposed pipelines were noted across the area. The vessel employed to perform this was the survey vessel M/V Wind K.
After a difficult deployment of the seismic equipment due to the heavy seas together with fishing boat interference, the R/V Geo Natuna began production on the July 1st and in order to fulfil the fore mentioned objectives, the vessel deployed four long streamers of 8km in length, something which our competitors were seemingly reluctant to do. As with most Fugro’s seismic vessels, the streamers consisted of solid sections. The advantage of the solid filled sections enabled less noise from the drilling operations to infect the recorded signal as well as being more environmentally friendly in the event of them becoming parted.
The operation took into account the sensitivity of the shallow fishing grounds located in the southeast corner of the survey area. This resulted in a reduced survey for one of the azimuths. Fishing activity mainly increased during the night where the southern part of the survey area was congested by literally hundreds of fishing boats. The survey began with two locally hired Fishery Liaison Officers (FLO) onboard the master vessel and ten locally employed chase boats to provide and assist in the safe escort of the master seismic vessel. After a seismic cable had been severed because of a fishing vessel inadvertently crossing the spread, which resulted in several days down time and because of the sheer intensity of fishing activity in the area, this was upgraded with an additional FLO and ten extra chase boats in order to avoid any more potential show stopping incidents. Even after this extraordinary measure, it wasn’t until employing the strategy of daylight only shooting and the additional assistance drafted in from the Egyptian Navy in the shape of two war ships that the seismic survey could continue unhindered.
There were no major tides or marine currents in the area however as expected there was a major fresh water influx from the Nile estuary in the southern eastern corner of the survey area which further added complications in maintaining streamer stability and feathering due to these currents in the survey area.
Despite the well documented and ongoing political uncertainty in Egypt, two complete crew changes were successfully performed during the survey on July 13th and August 17th. Both of the crew change operations completed safely and without incident through the use several helicopter sorties on a BELL 412 to and from the vessel and through the use of a chartered aircraft. All logistics made possible by the excellent efforts of the client, vessel crews, agent, local authorities and shore support. Optimal production was maintained with the new crew onboard via the use of the vessel’s work boats which were launched on a regular basis in order to maintain the in-sea equipment and save valuable time in the avoiding the recovery of the seismic streamers. Further time was saved with in-line refuelling while maintaining production, using the master vessel’s permanently assigned support boat, M/V Go Acomar.
Despite the complexity of the survey, the technical downtime for the total project was less than 3% which is way below what is considered to be an industry average.
Fugro-Geoteam is committed to QHSE excellence, clearly displayed not only in our operations, but also by our achievement of OHSAS 18001 certification. A recent move to a process orientated QHSE Management system has enabled us to focus upon the core processes, effectively managing risks in an efficient and effective manner, without the paper work overload inherent in a traditional management system. This enables us to provide an efficient operation with pro-active risk management thus delivering a quality product.
After a truly gallant effort by the crew and good cooperation with the client, the agent and all local authorities, the survey was successfully complete on October 2nd with the following HSE objectives easily met; zero lost time incidents, zero restricted work cases, no incidents regarding the environment and only a minimal number of minor incidents. The vessel then headed north to the Black Sea to complete its next project.