Researchers to study seismic impact alongside Prion survey in Bass Strait

Large seismic survey vessel in ocean with helipad
Image: Shutterstock

Beach Energy is partnering with leading Australian research institutions on a one-of-a-kind study that will coincide with the Prion 3D Seismic Survey in late October.

The research project will trial emerging seismic survey technologies and, at the same time, study the sound impacts to scallop and lobster from the new and traditional seismic sound sources.

Carried out by leading Australian research teams, the scientifically robust assessment will build on the evidence base for both the fishing and petroleum industries.

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The survey will take place in the offshore Bass Basin in Commonwealth waters, approximately 73km east of King Island, 57km north of Stanley in Tasmania and 105km south of Wonthaggi in Victoria at their closest points.

The offshore Commonwealth regulator NOPSEMA recently accepted Beach’s Environment Plan for the Prion Seismic Survey, which will take approximately eight weeks subject to weather conditions.

Beach Energy community manager Linda French said while the Prion Survey area has never been commercially fished for scallop, consultation with the local fishing industry has been very important and led to agreements to undertake two separate research projects.

“Seismic surveys, which allow us to map the subsurface geology, have been undertaken safely in Bass Strait for many decades,” French said.

“While the scientific evidence does not support claims of adverse impacts from seismic surveys to the fisheries in our survey area, in response to the industry’s concerns we have started two key studies to build upon the evidence base.

“The first is to assess scallop biomass and conduct a ‘before and after’ impact study on potential new scallop beds in a small part in the south-west corner of the Prion Survey area.

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“The second study is a nation-leading research project to improve the evidence base of new seismic technologies—part of a collaborative research project that involves the Institute of Marine and Antarctic Studies in Hobart and Curtin University in Perth, both highly respected in this field of study.”

Offshore seismic surveys use a vessel, about 100m long, to tow an acoustic source and hydrophone receivers on 12 streamers 8km long.

The acoustic source will transmit sound waves into the geological structures beneath the seabed, which reflect to the hydrophone receivers. Geophysicists will analyse the recorded data and create a 3D map of the subsea structures to identify potential natural gas reservoirs.