A recent subsea survey project in the Black Sea has scanned for ancient shipwrecks and other archaeological treasures ahead of future oil exploration in the area.
UK based services firm James Fisher Marine Services (JFMS) said it completed the deep-towed subsea survey on behalf of Russian oil and gas company Lukoil in waters offshore Romania that are known to hold treasures dating back to Venetian golden era of centuries ago.
The survey covered an 8- by 6.13-kilometer grid over three planned exploration wells in approximately 1,000 meters water depth, in the Ex30 Trident Block.
Being the site of a recent discovery of 60 shipwrecks that brought artifacts dating back to the Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman periods to the surface for the first time in centuries, the Black Sea is a region of significant scientific interest globally.
JFMS said it delivered the scope on Lukoil's behalf in order to comply with new Romanian environmental law that requires an archaeological clearance survey be performed to identify any potential archaeological targets, and where none remain, sanctions the area as being clear of any archaeological interest.
According to JFMS, which is part of UK marine services company James Fisher and Sons, Lukoil and the local diving authorities had little experience of a survey of this scale before, previously using a platform-based solution only suitable for smaller areas. JFMS said its deep-towed solution reduced the operation time to within five days.
The company procured the multipurpose support vessel Ievoli Cobalt, mobilized out of the port of Constanta with a towed side-scan sonar and sub-bottom profiler solution, together with a work-class remotely operated vehicle, Triton XLX WROV, for visual inspection of targets identified in the sonar data.
The survey required JFMS to identify any anomalies with dimensions exceeding one meter in all axes - using the side-scan sonar to search for surface targets and the sub-bottom profiler to detect sub-surface targets down to a depth of 6 meters.
Post-analysis of data revealed no targets of potential archaeological interest, meaning the Romanian authorities are now free to issue an Archaeological Discharge Certificate and Lukoil may now proceed with drilling and construction operations in the field later this year.
Martin Dronfield, director, strategy and business development at JFMS, said the project marks the first time that JFMS has provided a deep-towed subsea survey, but added that the the company will be ablt to build on the success and acquired expertise to expand upon the survey options it provides.