In 2015, the UK government funded the NSTA’s acquisition of seismic surveys of the Rockall Trough and greater Mid North Sea High (MNSH).
The project, which was intended to stimulate interest in oil and gas exploration in previously under-explored areas, produced around 40,000km of new data, which was made freely available in April the following year.
This data joined the terabytes already available from 50 years of North Sea exploration that, since 2019, has been available through the NSTA’s National Data Repository (NDR). NDR data can be downloaded free, here, and users include the oil and gas industry, academics, and anyone with an interest in offshore geoscience data.
The immediate value of the data to the oil and gas and carbon storage industries was clear as was the use made by academics, but it was not obvious who else may find a use for it.
Then, along came seismic processing specialists RockWave, who decided to look at the data in an unusual way.
Crown Estate Scotland opened bidding on its ScotWind programme to lease areas around Scotland for windfarm developments in January 2021. The usual approach a windfarm developer will take when assessing the site is to look at already available public data, however few, if any, would look to dig into the vaults of oil & gas seismic which is often considered to lack the required resolution within the shallow subsurface.
Working on behalf of engineering consultancy Atkins and a bidding consortium of SSE Renewables, Marubeni and CIP, RockWave looked again at the 2015 MNSH data on the NDR and repurposed it to optimise the resolution within the top 100m with the view that this would provide a valuable starting point for Offshore Wind ground models where no UHRS data currently existed. This contrasts with the original oil and gas analysis of the data which would discard information about the shallow subsurface to focus on deep exploration targets.
Utilising the RockWave data, Atkins were able to map the thickness of the bedrock and identify potential hazards such as depressions, tunnel valleys, faults and gas pockets that could undermine the planned siting of a windfarm.
With this additional detailed information, the bidding consortium had a far more detailed understanding than was otherwise available from public mapping sources and fed this information into what would become a successful ScotWind application.
With the volume of data available within the NDR there is plenty of opportunity for data to be utilised for a wide range of purposes. Since then RockWave have been actively using this approach for Offshore Wind in the Celtic Sea and subsurface storage in other UK locations.
Matt Swan, RockWave Managing Director, said:
“When we created RockWave a couple of years ago we had an ambition to take our knowledge and experiences from the oil and gas industry and apply it in the renewables space. One of our early ideas was to see if we could make use of existing oil and gas seismic and we immediately saw the opportunity with the modern NSTA datasets.
“Proving the concept was one thing, but for it to play a part in a successful Scotwind bid for a highly contested site opens up the potential of this repurposing technique for a host of other uses. The whole process is made much simpler within the UK by the presence of the NDR and the ability for anyone to access a wide range of data. The more data that becomes available in this system, the more the broad energy industry can work collaboratively in this way.”
Nic Granger, NSTA Director of Corporate, said:
“This is a perfect example of the power of data. The data collected and made available through the NSTA Digital Energy Platform means organisations can look at it in light of new needs and use it in new ways. We have developed our technology to greatly enhance functionality, and support innovation.
“I am pleased that this is the case here and, am convinced that as we continue to add more data and greater functionality to the NDR, innovation in support of the energy transition will happen time and time again.”
Further details about the NDR can also be viewed here.