Guest ridicule by David Middleton
Somebody call the wambulance!!!
From who else? The American Association for the Advancement of Science of America (homage to Dodgeball is intentional)…
Update: Despite protests, NSF plans to sell seismic research ship
By Paul Voosen Apr. 30, 2018 , 1:00 PM
Marine seismologists are decrying a move by the National Science Foundation (NSF) to sell off its only ship capable of imaging structures, such as the subduction zones that drive the largest earthquakes, deep beneath the ocean floor.
For the past few years, NSF has sought a new operating model for the R/V Marcus G. Langseth to close an annual $3.5 million funding shortfall that has forced the vessel to spend long periods docked. But no palatable fix has been forthcoming, the agency said earlier this month . That means the agency will sell the ship and require scientists to arrange their own surveys from the private sector while it seeks a long-term solution.
The sale amounts to a “loss of trust,” the leaders of the Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology, which represents academics who use the ship, wrote in a letter to NSF on 26 April. The group argues the sale will penalize early-career scientists, who lack ties to the powerful seismic ships used by oil and gas companies, and slant research toward questions that these companies are seeking to answer. A sale should not proceed until a long-term solution is in place, they add, and NSF must continue to accept new funding proposals aimed at keeping the field alive.
Science (as in: She blinded me with)
The National Science Foundation, “with an annual budget of $7.5 billion (FY 2017), [is the] the funding source for approximately 24 percent of all federally supported basic research conducted by America’s colleges and universities,” gives hard-earned taxpayer dollars to academic researchers to do research that no one else is willing to pay for. NSF can budget $10 million per year for the R/V Marcus G. Langseth… The vessel’s annual operating and maintenance costs run $13.5 million per year…
That means the agency will sell the ship and require scientists to arrange their own surveys from the private sector while it seeks a long-term solution.
The private sector clearly terrifies academics (no offense intended to my friends in academia… But I just love this clip from Ghostbusters.)
The group argues the sale will penalize early-career scientists, who lack ties to the powerful seismic ships used by oil and gas companies, and slant research toward questions that these companies are seeking to answer.
The companies are paying geophysical contractors to conduct geophysical surveys because those surveys are used to find oil and gas (mostly). There’s no slanting of research toward questions that these companies are seeking to answer. It’s called “business”… Surely this is taught somewhere along the way in college… Isn’t it?
There was a time when many oil companies operated their own seismic crews. Conoco (now ConocoPhillips) invented Vibroseis…
Seismic reflection surveying is the most widely used geophysical technique to explore for hydrocarbons.
The collection of seismic data involves sending small acoustic pulses into the ground and measuring the sound waves that are reflected from the rock layers deep within the ground. These reflections are processed and formed into images of the subsurface using supercomputers. The technology is similar to the use of a sonogram in the medical field. The acoustic pulses are typically generated by vibrating the Earth with specially equipped trucks, a technology known as Vibroseis that was invented by ConocoPhillips about 50 years ago.
After gathering the seismic data and processing it into an image, 3-D computer models of the reservoir can be created. These detailed models allow our geologists and geophysicists to map the subsurface geology in great detail, helping us to better predict where oil and gas is located and determine where best to drill an exploratory well.
Marine seismic surveys are conducted using specially equipped vessels that tow both the marine seismic source and the recording systems in the water behind the vessel. The recording systems typically consist of one or more sensor cables, known as streamers. The streamers are deployed just beneath the surface of the water and are usually towed a few hundred feet behind the vessel. The streamers can be up to 20,000 feet long.
The marine seismic source, usually an air gun, releases compressed air in pulses into the water column. The sound waves from these pulses travel down into the subsurface and are reflected from the rock strata to be recorded by the streamer systems. Marine seismic acquisition is not limited to the use of towed sensors or streamers. It is also possible to lay recording devices, known as geophones and hydrophones, on the sea bed and record data from energy generated by a separate source vessel. Sea-bed recording is usually used when water depth or infrastructure make acquiring a towed-streamer survey difficult.
As recently as the late 1980’s, Conoco had its own Vibroseis crews. However, there’s a simple reason why few, if any, private sector oil companies operate their own seismic crews: Money.
From the AAASA article…
Yet these days, thanks to tight NSF budgets, the Langseth typically has another view: a New York dockyard. Last year, it spent only 128 days at sea.
And much to their chagrin, marine seismologists may lose the services of the Langseth altogether. NSF is reviewing proposals, due on 21 August, that would deal with a $3.5 million gap between the $13.5 million cost of operating the ship and the $10 million that NSF is willing to pay. The Langseth has been in the crosshairs ever since 2015, when an influential “Sea Change” report—the ocean sciences decadal survey sponsored by the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine—recommended that NSF trim its ocean infrastructure in favor of more research support. If an academic institution or consortium is willing to take over the ship and provide NSF with just $10 million worth of time—or if an institution can bring $3.5 million to the table to balance out the budget—then great, the agency says. If not, the ship will be sold off to the highest bidder, and the money will be used to procure ship time for marine seismology with third-party contractors. “It’s just not working with this current financial and ownership model,” says Richard Murray, NSF’s director of ocean sciences in Arlington, Virginia. “We end up in a situation where the ship is tied up at the dock and not being used in different ways.”
Science (as in: She blinded me with)
Seismic survey crews and vessels cost money to maintain and operate. Oil companies rarely need continuous proprietary use of seismic survey crews and vessels. When they do, they hire geophysical contractors to conduct the surveys. Usually, they just license data already shot by marine contractors. Nearly every square meter of the US offshore areas currently open to exploration and production (E&P) activities is covered by 2d and/or 3d seismic data.
Seismic survey crews and vessels are so expensive to maintain and operate that one of the largest geophysical contractors, WesternGeco, is exiting the acquisition side of the business.
Schlumberger To Exit Land, Marine Seismic Acquisition Business
Velda Addison Senior Editor, Digital News Group Hart Energy Friday, January 19, 2018
Schlumberger Ltd. (NYSE: SLB) has decided to exit the land and marine seismic acquisition business, which has been battered by the downturn and faces an uncertain future.
The business segment is the Houston-based company’s only product line that fails to meet future return expectations, according to Schlumberger CEO Paal Kibsgaard.
“This has not been an easy decision to make. But following a careful evaluation of the current market trend, our customers’ buying habits and our current and projected financial return, it is an unfortunate and inevitable outcome,” Kibsgaard said during the company’s earnings call on Jan. 19.
Schlumberger’s marine and land seismic acquisition services are offered through WesternGeco, which is part of the company’s reservoir characterization group. The group reported revenue of $1.6 billion for fourth-quarter 2017, down 8% sequentially and down 2% from a year ago.
The oilfield service company highlighted the strength of the group’s Integrated Services Management operations, contract awards and new technology deployments for the quarter. However, that was not enough to help solidify the land and marine seismic acquisition business’ place within the company.
Schlumberger reported about $3 billion of pretax charges for fourth-quarter 2017. This included more than $1.1 billion in seismic restructuring expenses related to WesternGeco and a $938 million write-down of holdings in Venezuela, which has been experienced economic and political turmoil.
Schlumberger isn’t the only one being challenged in today’s seismic environment as evidenced by the financials of others in the business.
CGG, for example, filed for bankruptcy in France and the U.S. in 2017 in a move to eliminate $1.95 billion in debt from its balance sheet. Global Geophysical Services filed for bankruptcy in 2016, its second time in two years. Seismic surveyor Dolphin Group filed for bankruptcy in 2015.
The exit comes as the industry continues to make technological strides such as advances in high-performance computing, data analytics and machine learning. Such technologies enable the company to “extract significantly higher value from our previously acquired data,” Kibsgaard said.
Schlumberger’s WesternGeco will adopt an asset-light model going forward based on its multiclient data processing and interpretation businesses, he said. The company plans to honor its existing contracts and customer commitments and cold stack equipment as it evaluates divestment options.
Schlumberger’s WesternGeco will adopt an asset-light model going forward based on its multiclient data processing and interpretation businesses, he said.
Government behaving like private sector…
The Langseth has been in the crosshairs ever since 2015, when an influential “Sea Change” report—the ocean sciences decadal survey sponsored by the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine—recommended that NSF trim its ocean infrastructure in favor of more research support.
Academia behaving like academia…
The sale amounts to a “loss of trust,” the leaders of the Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology, which represents academics who use the ship…
I love this bit from the AAASA article…
The R/V Marcus G. Langseth is a remarkable research ship. The 70-meter vessel, owned by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and operated by Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory (LDEO) in Palisades, New York, can tow long chains of floating acoustic receivers, which catch seismic reflections off the ocean floor and the layers of marine sediments below it when an array of airguns are set off in the water. Using these reflections, researchers can build 3D pictures of structures like subduction zones, the regions where one tectonic plate dives below another, setting off large earthquakes and tsunamis in the process.
Science (as in: She blinded me with)
Who could have guessed?
- When marine airguns are used to map “structures like subduction zones, the regions where one tectonic plate dives below another, setting off large earthquakes and tsunamis in the process,” it’s a good thing… Clearly the loss of access to this taxpayer-funded boondoggle will lead to billions of deaths from volcanoes, earthquakes and tsunamis that could have been averted with just a little more money from the taxpayers.
- When marine airguns are used to map potential oil & gas accumulations, it kills whales .
In the furtherance of irony… When marine airguns are used to map subduction zones, it costs the taxpayers money… When marine airguns are used to find oil & gas under Federal waters, the taxpayers make money (well… at least the government does).
All Is Not Lost
One of the things I’ve noticed throughout my 37 years in this business, is that geophysical contractors are usually very obliging when it comes to providing seismic data to academic researchers. If I had $1 for every time I’ve seen something like this in an academic research paper: Seismic data provided by [fill in the blank seismic contractor], I’d have a lot of dollars.
And then there’s “Free-d”… The National Archive of Marine Seismic Surveys.
Marine seismic reflection data acquired originally for purposes of oil and gas exploration within the US EEZ represent a national scientific resource of inestimable value. Recognizing the value of these data, the USGS is committed to preserving on behalf of the academic community and the nation data that may otherwise be lost, and to ensuring free and open access to that data.
High-quality seismic reflection data are essential to geological investigation of the offshore. To date, much of these data have been proprietary and available for publishable research only with significant restrictions. Although the commercial value of these data has diminished as a result of technological advances and offshore development moratoria, these data continue to have great relevance and value to current and future scientific research efforts. The value and risk of loss of these data was the subject of a 2002 National Research Council report “Geoscience Data and Collections: National Resources in Peril” by the Committee on the Preservation of Geoscience Data and Collections, Committee on Earth Resources.
Initially, a National Archive of Marine Seismic Surveys (NAMSS) was created to serve data collected by the USGS under the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) and Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) mapping programs between 1975 and the mid-1990s. In 2005, two large data owners, WesternGeco and Chevron, offered to transfer to the USGS more than 300,000 km of data off the US eastern, western, and Alaskan coasts for the purpose of making those data publicly available for research and educational purposes. These data were conventional 2D multichannel airgun seismic reflection acquired and processed according to standards of the mid 1970s and early 1980s. The surveys were generally limited to the continental shelf, extending up to 150 miles offshore.
More recently, the USGS has partnered with the Bureau of Ocean Management (BOEM) to distribute data acquired since 1975 by BOEM for the purpose of assessing offshore resources. BOEM retains the regulatory authority to acquire and release Geological and Geophysical (G&G) data and information on the Outer Continental Shelf. The Code of Federal Regulations 30 CFR Parts 551 and 580 allow for the release of G&G data and information upon completion of the proprietary term for said data and information. For processed seismic reflection data that proprietary term is 25 years from the issuance of the G&G permit. Accordingly, data provided to BOEM from 1975 to 1990 are now eligible for public release on NAMSS.
Other contributors of data to NAMSS include British Petroleum (data from the North Slope of Alaska), and Pacific Gas and Electric, which has provided data that were collected offshore of Diablo Canyon, California in support of the re-licensing of the Diablo Canyon Power Plant.
The offshore seismic data acquired by the private sector under the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) and Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of these occasionally United States have to be made available, free of charge, to the public after a 25-yr proprietary period.
Now… The software, workstations and experience required to load and interpret the “Free-d” isn’t free… But access to the data is… Kind of analogous to the Second Amendment not providing free guns.
As usual… Any and all sarcasm and irony were purely intentional.