Hough, G., Green, J., Fish, P. et al. Mar Geophys Res (2011) 32: 151. doi:10.1007/s11001-010-9111-z
Exploration and development of offshore hydrocarbon resources has advanced into remote deepwater regions over the last decade and poses significant technical challenges for the design and installation of wells and facilities at extreme water depths. Seafloor and shallow subsurface processes and conditions in these areas are complex and generally poorly understood, and the geohazards to development are larger scale and fundamentally different to those encountered onshore; consequently the geohazard risk to deepwater development projects is potentially significant and requires careful evaluation and mitigation during the front-end planning and engineering design stages of projects. There are no established industry standards or methods for the assessment of geohazards and engineering-quality geophysical data at the scale of development. The paper describes an integrated and systematic map-based approach for the assessment and mitigation of seabed geohazards and risk to proposed deepwater development. The approach employs a multi-disciplinary team working with engineering-quality field calibrated data to accurately map and assess seafloor ground conditions and ensure that development proposals are not exposed to intolerable geohazard risk. The approach taken is very similar to the practice of establishing geological models for land-based engineering projects, in which the complete geological history of the site is used to characterise and predict the performance of the ground. Such an approach is routine for major projects on land but so far does not seem to be common practice in the offshore industry. The paper illustrates the seafloor geomophological mapping approach developed. The products are being used to optimise development layouts to avoid geohazards where possible and to support site-specific engineering design of facilities based on a detailed understanding of the potential geohazard loadings and associated risk.