Marine Technology Reporter Blogs

Projected Models Show a Shaky Future for the Polar Bear

July 10, 2012

WHOI’s Ocean and Climate Change Institute (OCCI) is conducting research in the ocean’s role in climate change. The institute supports a wide range of activities including seeding basic research, supporting long-term goals, as well as supporting research with implications for federal policy. One of the programs currently under study at the institute is the research being conducted linking the loss of sea ice with declines in polar bear populations. Hal Caswell of Woods hole Oceanographic institute and Christine Hunter of the University of Alaska led a study that concluded that melting Arctic ice is a critical threat to the bears survival and reproductive rates. The bears use the ice as a platform to hunt seals, their main food source.

Deep-Sea Mining Methods and Concerns

July 5, 2012

Deep-sea mining has increased over the past decade due to demand for precious metals and phosphorus nodule mining, which is the best source for artificial fertilizer. The deposits are mined using either hydraulic pumps or bucket systems that take ore to the surface to be processed. Polymetallic nodules, which contain nickel, copper, cobalt and manganese, are found at depth of 4000 – 6000 meter. Manganese crusts are available at 800-2400 meter. Mainly cobalt, some vanadium, molybdenum and platinum are found in it. Sulfide deposits are found at an average depth of 1400-3700, which contains copper, lead, zinc, some gold and silver. Diamonds are also mined from the seabed. Remotely Operated Vehicles are used equipped with drills to gather samples that are then analyzed for precious metals.

Ships Change Rio Scenery and Worry Environmentalists

June 15, 2013

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Today when you go to any beach in the city of Rio de Janeiro and look offshore, the Cagarras islands aren´t the only thing you´ll see. It is now common to see dozens of ships moored offshore, waiting for a birth in the city port or even waiting for a contract to come up. According to the Rio Port Authority (Companhia Docas do Rio de Janeiro), there has been an increase of 146% in the number of ships that arrive in the Rio port. In 2009, 1,568 ships docked in the Port of Rio, in 2010 this number grew to 2,374 and in 2011 it reached 3,861 ships. Estimates show that this year the increase will be tremendous with something around 10 thousand ships seeking the port of Rio.

ExxonMobil Partners With Russian Oil Giant

July 2, 2012

ExxonMobil and the Russian company Rosneft are joining forces to tap into West Siberia’s oil reserves. The approach to tapping the oil reserves will be two pronged using a tight oil strategy aimed for low-permeability reservoirs and establishing an Arctic design center. A pilot study will be conducted to find out the technical feasibility of developing oil reserves in Western Siberia. Work will be focused on Rosneft's Bazhenov and Achimov reservoirs in Western Siberia and drilling is scheduled to begin in 2013. Technology successfully employed by ExxonMobil in North America will be used as part of the program. The two companies will also oversee the establishment of a technical research center for Arctic exploration and development.

WHOI’s Submersible Alvin Gets Upgrades

June 30, 2012

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The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institutions submersible Alvin began undergoing a series of pressure tests at a facility in Annapolis, Maryland this week. The tests are being conducted to see how it reacts to pressures simulating depths from 6,500 to 8,000 meters or 4-5 miles. To build in a safety factor, one test dive will put the sphere under pressure of 12,000 pounds per square inch, simulating a depth of about 8,000 meters, or 5 miles. If all goes according to plan, the new sphere will be transported to WHOI, arriving sometime during the first week of July. There, engineers will reassemble the newest incarnation of Alvin. It will have five viewports, compared with the three that previous Alvins had.

Seaglider to Monitor the Brazilian Pre-salt

June 15, 2013

Researchers from Coppe/UFRJ (Federal University of Rio de Janeiro) will use data from AUVs,UUVs, floating sensors and satellites in a novel monitoring system, which scientists believe will decrease the time needed in order to identify oil spills. Other than the important aspect of quickly identifying oil spills in the pre-salt, scientists will gain greater knowledge about this little explored region, which is already considered to be the new frontier in the Brazilian O&G industry. The project is named “Projeto Azul” or Blue Project and calls for a US$10 million investment, which will be footed by BG Brasil. The Project was launched and the investment agreement signed last week during the RIO + 20 event.

Small Coastal Dolphins Awarded Protected Area During Rio + 20

June 15, 2013

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The “Restinga de Jurubatiba” National Park has a coastal area 44 km long and is composed of shrub like trees, rich fauna and flora, 18 pristine coastal lagoons that occasionally open up to the sea. However up to now, its 15 hectares did not encompass the sea fronting it. That is precisely where the most endangered group of dolphins in Brazil are found in greater abundance. The Pontoporia blainvillei, commonly known as “Toninha” in these parts, is set to be awarded its first dedicated preservation area in the State of Rio de Janeiro. The idea is to include an area with a depth of up to 30 meters (following the depth curve), along the 44 km coastal area that comprises the National Park. This will add up to a 15 km increase in the protected area.

Research Vessel Embarks on 27th Arctic Expedition

June 22, 2012

Forty-four expedition participants are on board the research vessel Polarstern in an effort to study an area between Spitsbergen and Greenland. Researchers are from institutions in the US, Germany, Belgium and the UK. Long term oceanographic measurements will be taken during the expedition before traveling to AWI Hausgarten for a two-week biological focus. The largest area of study will be in Fram Strait, the only deep-sea water connection between the Atlantic and Arctic Ocean. Important measurements regarding how much water is exchanged between these two seas and what salt transport and heat is associated with this process are important pieces in understanding the complex correlations between the Arctic’s atmosphere, ocean, and sea ice.

Aubin Brings its Gel Based Products to Brazil

June 15, 2013

Although the Scottish chemical technology company Aubin originally specialized as a cement and stimulation additive supplier, it has made strong inroads into the Oil and Gas industry in recent years, with the subsea sector being their main target. The company is based in Ellon, Aberdeenshire and has been in business since 1987. Some 6 years ago they came up with a novel product, which came to be known as “gel with a memory”. It is mainly used for pipe pigging purposes as it can be squashed but returns to its original shape. Named L-gel, the product is also used for risers, which are considered impossible to be pigged. It can go around tight bends and through blocked areas where a conventional pig would probably get stuck.

New Bering Sea Research Reveals Impact on American Fisheries

June 19, 2012

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Recent research conducted in the Bering Sea has shown a change in the patterns of birds, mammals and fish based on ice extent and duration. These changes in behavior include the shifting of habitat location, and where they eat and bear their young. Researchers from NOAA and the University of Washington’s Joint Institute for the Study of the Atmosphere and Ocean (JISAO) published their findings in the journal Deep Sea Research II. The research, which took place over a six year time period, focused on ice and ecosystem conditions in an effort to understand the processes that influence the eastern Bering Sea marine ecosystem. The NOAA led findings included measurements that show a potential impact of climate change on species from zooplankton to whales living on the Bering Sea shelf…

China makes Successful Dive in Mariana Trench

June 16, 2012

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Jialong, the Chinese manned submersible has brought it’s three occupants back from a dive to a depth of over 19,000 feet in the Mariana Trench setting China’s deep-sea diving record. The dive was the first of six scheduled dives and took three hours to reach the deepest depth of the dive. On board the submersible were it’s three occupants, Cui Weicheng, Yang Bo and Ye Cong. Once the submersible reached the bottom and the ascent was to begin, Jialong dropped it’s iron ballast and began the ascent, which took an hour and forty-five minutes. Each of the six dives which last from eight to twelve hours are designed to test various functions and performances of the submersible at depth.

NASA’s NEEMO Project Trains Astronauts for Deep Space Mission

June 16, 2012

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Several aquanauts are conducting a 12-day mission beneath the sea off the Florida coast. The mission is designed to help train the four-person team for future space exploration. They will be spending their time on board the underwater research station Aquarius. Aquarius sits on the sea floor at a depth of 62 feet and is located over 3 miles off of Key Largo. The NASA program known as NEEMO for NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations program is designed to put participants in extreme environments to prepare them for traveling to asteroids, planets or other space destinations. This simulates living on a spacecraft allowing the team to test techniques for future space missions.

Brazilian Pre-salt Discoveries Raise Expectations for New Discoveries in WA

June 15, 2013

Statoil recently increased the estimates for their Campos Basin pre-salt O&G discoveries up to a substantial total of 1.24 billion barrels boe. Consequently Statoil has also increased its optimism for the geologically similar plays it has in Angola. Not only are the cross ocean plays geologically similar but they are also located along the same longitude. Both pre-salt geological formations off the Brazilian and West African coasts have their origins in common, something that goes back around 120 million years ago, when ancient Gondwana split into what is now known as South America and Africa. The pre-salt reservoirs on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean are expected to contain large quantities of light oil.

Scientists Install Autonomous Lab off Norway

June 13, 2012

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Scientists of the GEOMAR Helmholtz Center for Ocean Research have developed a modular multidisciplinary seafloor observatory. The new modular ocean floor observatory, MoLab of GEOMAR (Germany), consists of one master lander, three satellite landers, three eddy correlation modules and two mooring modules. The MoLab will be able to measure chemical, geological, biological, and physical parameters over the course of several months. The MoLab Installation will be placed over a coldwater coral reef off the coast of northern Noraway. “We want to find out why the corals grow at this specific place and what the impact of climate change on the corals will be “, Dr Olaf Pfannkuche, chief scientist of the cruise that will send MoLab down, said in the press release.

Wave Energy Research in Brazil Taking Off

June 15, 2013

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This month the first serious experiment with wave energy officially begins in Brazil. The first wave energy plant in the country was installed in the northeast state of Ceará, more specifically in the port of Pecém, located 60km from the state capital Fortaleza and will be officially launched during the Rio+20 taking place in Rio de Janeiro. With the Brazilian coastline being 8,000km long, scientists from COPPE/UFRJ, estimate that with wave energy plants up and down the coast the country could produce up to 87 gigawatts of which 20% could conceivably be converted in electricity, this would add up to 17% of the country´s total installed electrical energy capacity.

Renewable Energy From Ocean Currents

June 6, 2012

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Durban of South Africa is considering teaming up Hydro Alternative Energy Inc., in an effort to generate electricity from sea-currents. Hydro Alternative is interested in the development of a 1-megawatt demonstration unit to generate power from the Agulhas Current. The Agulhas current is the western boundary current of the South Indian Ocean. Flowing down the east coast of Africa, the source water at its northern end is derived from Mozambique channel eddies and the East Madagascar Current. It’s greatest source of water is recirculation in the southwest Indian Ocean sub-gyre. The Agulhas Current is fast as with other western boundary currents.

Scientists Solve Mystery of Floating Debris

June 6, 2012

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In 2010 marine scientist from the Dauphin Island Sea Lab were in the field collecting water samples following the Deep Horizon oil spill. Dr. Monty Graham was one of those scientists who discovered some unusual objects bobbing in the water some 32 miles south off the coast of Alabama. According to Graham the water was flat when they noticed  “odd white things with an oily halo in the water all around them.” The scientists looked for traces of the oil slick on the surface but found none. These objects that were floating along intertwined in the sargassum, and ran in an east to west direction for some 6 miles. The scientists collected samples in this location, and two days later in another location some 25 miles from Dauphin Island.

Scientists Studying Ocean Wave Size Surprised by New Findings

June 5, 2012

Previously geologists studying ocean waves thought that there were two types of waves. large storm driven waves and small fair weather waves. Recently two geologists at the University of Wisconsin discovered a large size discrepancy between waves in different oceans. Understanding wave patterns, size and their effects on bottom composition has led these scientists to change their thoughts regarding the pervious theories on wave size. Researchers found that either storm driven or gentle waves they are all one type. Some researchers studying ancient environments are taking a close look and are beginning to interpret structures preserved in sedimentary rocks. Storm waves churn up sediment like sand, and leave a characteristic pattern known as hummocky cross-stratification.

Seismic Survey Companies at the Forefront of Oil and Gas Exploration

June 5, 2012

The search for new carbon deposits in the ocean has increased and continues to range farther offshore. Seismic survey companies have become a critical component in finding the world’s recoverable oil and gas reserves. Many of the areas being explored are deeper and in more inhospitable environments. Both the Gulf of Mexico and the Arctic continue to be at the forefront for exploration. There are en estimated 380 billion barrels of undiscovered oil and gas north of the Arctic Circle with the majority existing in offshore areas. Polcarus doubled it’s fleet in 2011 from three to six vessels. All of the Polcarus arctic vessels are double hulled and have environmentally conscious features.

Polar Satellite Mission Helps Scientist Monitor Climate Changes

May 31, 2012

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Scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) are using data collected by a polar-orbiting satellite launched earlier this month from a Japanese space center. The satellite is used to help forecast storms, monitor the decline of the Arctic sea ice, and predict the onset of El Nino, La Nina and other global phenomenon. The satellite Suomi NPP was launched last year by the United States to help strengthen the environmental monitoring capabilities of both countries. NOAA operates the U.S. satellite. Last year a memorandum of understanding was signed between NOAA and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA).