Craig Jones
Marine Science and Engineering for Integral Consulting and InTELA2 Consortium Member

New Approach Produces Site Characterization Efficiencies

Sun, 07/01/2018 - 09:58

The offshore site assessments being planned and conducted in the Mexico oil and gas industry provide a unique opening to employ methods that will maximize cost efficiencies and reduce project implementation time frames. Science and engineering company Integral Consulting believes Mexico’s newly-developed regulations for initial environmental and social impact assessments offer an opportunity for subjectmatter experts to coordinate with the site development team in the early stages of planning to determine the specific site assessment data needed for initial and subsequent phases of a project’s development. “Based on project experience from across the globe, we propose a consortium-based approach as a superior and practical way for the industry to access the experts needed to ensure technically appropriate and compliant, yet highly efficient, site development projects in offshore Mexico,” says CEO Bill Locke.

Integral, an integrated science and engineering services company with an emphasis in marine sciences, and several other companies, including engineering and science firm Tetra Tech and the social performance firm Agile Sustainability Management, have established the consortium InTELA2 to support the exploration and development activities of Mexico’s oil and gas operators in the Gulf of Mexico. InTELA2’s core services include site characterizations and assessments, where consortium members say substantial savings can be found when companies integrate complimentary activities. In the world of offshore development, the activities associated with site characterizations have traditionally involved the independent collection of the geophysical, geotechnical and metocean data necessary to develop an offshore production facility. Substantial savings can be accrued in cost and time by the selective coordination of data collection for the assessments needed for future activities. To achieve its goals, InTELA2 promotes effective collaboration across technical disciplines and various phases of site characterization. 

Recently, members of the InTELA2 team were involved in a project in the US Gulf of Mexico in which the initial site characterization was modeled after protocols used for international Environmental Site Impact Assessments (ESIAs). Soon after the Deepwater Horizon accident, the operator needed to conduct two ESIA’s for development planned at the site and made the decision to do a full ESIA. Accessing the existing datasets from the initial site characterization process allowed the team to effectively characterize the benthic community that forms a fundamental component of the ESIA. 

The operator enjoyed significant time and cost savings for all follow-on environmental impact assessments by getting the environmental experts and the site development team together early in the exploration and development process to determine what datasets would be needed for the initial and subsequent ESIAs.

Over that last decade, members of InTELA2 also prepared a large series of regulatory assessments for offshore oil and gas exploration and production in the Gulf of Thailand. The petroleum production projects covered more than 150 wellhead platforms, four new central processing platforms and the installation of two floating storage and offloading tankers. Other activities included regulatory assessments such as the Environmental Management Plan, ESIA, and ESHS. In addition, the baseline survey and monitoring programs included a suite of water column and seafloor sampling, with special sampling requirements that included sediment profile imaging and vibracore sampling. Using a consortiumbased framework, an expert team developed technical guidance for the ESIA process that resulted in regulatory approval of numerous site assessments over the course of 10 years.

The establishment of a strong relationship between the industry and the regulatory community resulted in the development of successful standards. The development and use of new methods for sampling and analysis helped to effectively communicate complex scientific results to a wide audience of interested parties and decision-makers. 

These lessons are directly applicable to pending offshore activities in Mexico, and will lead to synergies such as optimizing data collection across disciplines, developing combined sampling plans, and consolidating reporting activities to significantly improve overall project planning and execution.