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How they help the oil industry see how it affects the environment

For 30 years, these environmental experts have collected environmental data from the Norwegian continental shelf. Their database has grown enormously. But it has largely been left alone – until now.

Tor Jensen and Amund Ulfsnes in DNV GL sit on a big treasure. For nearly 30 years, all data from environmental studies on the Norwegian continental shelf have been collected and stored in the environmental monitoring database of Norsk Olje og Gass (Norwegian Oil and Gas), operated by DNV GL's environmental experts.

Now they are using new digitization technology that will provide industry with better insight and ability to provide more precise advice for taking decisions relating to the environment on the seabed.

"The environmental database is an indispensable tool for industry and authorities to describe developments in the state of the environment, and to say something about the environmental risk caused by offshore petroleum activities," says Einar Lystad, head of the ocean environment at Norsk Olje og Gass.

"It can also contribute to say something about developments in the oceans over time, by comparing the environmental status of so-called reference stations (unaffected) over a period of several decades," says Lystad.

A changing environment
DNV GL's environmental supervisors have a forward-looking attitude towards new technology and computer-generated solutions, and they are primarily concerned with what they can obtain from such development:

"We represent an environment that is changing and must be willing to change – and to admit a whole new generation and new types of expertise into the field," says Tor Jensen, head of the environmental department in DNV GL's oil and gas division.

"Until now, we have been traditional marine biologists getting out there to collect environmental data. But what kind of competence will we need in the near future? It will be expertise in many areas of artificial intelligence such as image recognition, sensor data, machine learning and general competence in data analysis,” says Amund Ulfsnes.

A combination of people with domain competence within marine biology with computer analysts – that's the future, according to the two environmental experts.

Cuts the waiting time
There is little doubt that it will affect the players on the Norwegian continental shelf when digitization now also takes on the domain of environmental supervisors.

“Instead of delivering 400-page reports each year, we predict that all results will be available through a visual dashboard. There you can extract all types of environmental data at any time,” sums up Jensen.

"The short-term gain is greater efficiency. The goal is to share all environmental data in an easy way to enrich the knowledge of industry, academia, consultants and government agencies.”

Initially, it means that all stakeholders on the Norwegian continental shelf will not have to wait if they need information on how activities in the oil and gas sector have affected the marine environment over the past 30 years. They can simply retrieve detailed data themselves at need.

Transferable knowledge
Both the oil and gas industry and the environmental authorities are enthusiastic about how Norsk Olje og Gass’ environmental database MOD is being made available through web solutions. However, the knowledge they extract can be used by other parties than authorities or players in oil and gas.

The learning that can be obtained from almost 30 years of monitoring the Norwegian continental shelf is also transferable to any marine operators, for example in aquaculture, but also for use in research and development, both private and public.

There are large amounts of results from sediment samples, chemical analyzes, species regulations and pollution data. There are data from more than 5,000 locations on the Norwegian continental shelf, and more than 5,000 species are recorded in the database

If you want to know when the concentration of chemicals has been highest, and where, you can find it here. When has there been an increase in specified crustaceans, which typically happens after a discharge? The answer is here. And at known events – how quickly afterwards do samples revert to normal values?

"The data have been there for years, used by industry, government and some research institutions, but there is a much greater potential in the data," says Ulfsnes.

Will be forward-looking
"With the use of machine learning, for example, there is potential for improving the forecast tools, based on all historical data which the industry itself has contributed to collecting," says Jensen.

"With forecasts, one will be able to predict how the environment is affected based on the activity in the oil field, including emissions and unwanted incidents.

“An increasing proportion of the environmental data is registered in real time via sensors which can be combined with historical environmental data. Then we can predict the effects of the activity on the fields in a faster and more precise way. We can be significantly more precise in surveillance and, for example, select focus areas for monitoring in a completely different way than today," he says.

Tor Jensen and Amund Ulfsnes