Friday, 4 September 2015

Robots, rocks and research drilling

Seabed rock drills are a developing technology with the potential to offer a cost effective way of recovering geological materials from beneath the sea.  More conventional technologies drill and sample the sub-seafloor utilising drilling systems that are on board a ship or platform.  Seabed rock drills are robotic drilling systems that are deployed from a ship and lowered to the seafloor, attached to the ship by an umbilical which as well as providing a physical connection, also allows for the drill to be remotely-controlled and monitored by engineers on board. The latest version of the BGS rock drill is designed to drill and core up to 50 m below the seafloor and is set to be one of 2 such devices to be used on the International Ocean Discovery Program (IODP) Expedition to Atlantis Massif later in the year.  The second system to be utilised on this project is the MeBo80, a seabed rock drill developed by MARUM, University of Bremen, Germany.

On 17 August 2015 Sally Morgan, of the European Petrophysics Consortium (University of Leicester), joined the Northern Lighthouse Vessel Pharos with colleagues from the British Geological Survey (BGS) to test the latest iteration of their seabed rock drill, RD2. 

In addition to drilling and coring holes in the seabed, BGS have also purchased downhole logging probes to be deployed in the holes once drilling is completed.  These battery operated probes, will record in situ measurements of the physical properties of the formations that have been penetrated, as the drill string is retrieved to the rig.  Sally was invited by BGS to participate in the trials cruise in the Firth of Lorne as the downhole logging specialist.  She will be providing technical support and guidance on the logging tools and associated data during the trails and beyond.

The trials cruise on the Pharos is co-funded by the European Consortium for Ocean Research Drilling (ECORD), the BGS and industry partners.


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