1. Who is CGG Australia?
CGG has had offices in Australia since 1983 and currently employs 133 people, in three locations. A leader in cutting-edge geoscience, we have a strong focus on innovation and a commitment to delivering the best sustainable solutions to our clients' energy challenges. We bring our clients a unique range of technologies, services and equipment designed to acquire extremely precise data and images of the Earth's subsurface. We also provide state-of-the-art software and services for analyzing that data and developing a deeper understanding of the subsurface for exploration, production and optimization of oil and gas reservoirs.
The Gippsland 3D Marine Seismic Survey will be carried out by CGG Services Australia Pty Ltd, operating under Australia Business Number 70 081 777 755.
2. What is ‘multi-client data’?
Geophysical surveys are acquired in two ways, either as a multi-client survey or as a proprietary survey. A proprietary survey is acquired by a single company using a geophysical contractor, over its area of interest only. Multi-client data is acquired by a geophysical company and covers a larger area of interest. The data is licensed to clients on a non-exclusive basis. In both cases the data is ultimately owned by the Commonwealth of Australia.
The advantage of a multi-client approach is that a single survey will fulfill the requirements of a larger number of companies, rather than each of these companies acquiring separate surveys.
3. What kind of activities are planned to be conducted in the Offshore Gippsland area?
The aim of the proposed Gippsland 3D Marine Seismic Survey (Gippsland MSS) is to explore the area in order to evaluate its potential natural resources. The survey vessel would operate over approximately 13,418 km2 including approximately 11,140 km2 where seismic data could be acquired (see map below).
The survey vessel will be operating in Commonwealth waters.
The main purpose of seismic exploration is to render the most accurate possible graphic representation of specific portions of the Earth's subsurface geologic structure.
Acquisition of seismic data involves the transmission of controlled acoustic energy into the Earth, and recording the energy that is reflected back from geologic boundaries in the subsurface.
The images produced allow the evaluation of the area for its potential to yield natural resources.Seismic surveys are the main tool used in oil & gas exploration and are used routinely throughout the world and around Australia. Numerous 2D and 3D surveys have taken place in the Gippsland Basin for over half a century, alongside other activities, such as petroleum production and commercial fishing.
For more information on what seismic surveys are, please follow this link
The seismic survey has now been completed, with the vessel leaving the operational area on 11th July 2020.
4. Why is new data needed in this area?
The Gippsland Basin has been producing hydrocarbons since the early 1970’s when several giant oil and gas fields were discovered. Since that time acquisition and processing technologies have advanced dramatically.
The examples below illustrate the improvement in imaging technology:
5. How are seismic surveys authorized?
The Australian Government requires petroleum and greenhouse gas (GHG) companies to conduct their activities in a manner that meets a high standard of environmental protection. The seismic industry's environmental record in Australia, particularly in offshore areas, has been exemplary. No offshore seismic survey proposal would be approved unless the highest environmental standards had been met.
Under Environment Regulations, an operator is legally required to submit a Summary Environment Plan to the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority (NOPSEMA) for public disclosure. Within ten days of receiving notification that the Environment Plan has been accepted, an electronic version of the summary must be submitted to NOPSEMA for publication online.
Summary Environment Plans submitted for petroleum activities in Commonwealth waters from January 2012 are available on the NOPSEMA website at this link.
CGG is currently commissioning a specialist environmental consultancy to prepare a detailed Environment Plan for NOPSEMA using the best available science. If this is accepted, a permit may be granted to conduct the seismic survey under the conditions agreed to in the environmental plan.
During the Environment Plan preparation phase, the environmental consultancy engages with stakeholders (local communities, fisheries representatives, conservation associations, regulatory bodies etc.) and addresses their potential concerns.
NOTE: On February 25th NOPSEMA approved CGG’s Environmental Plan. Although not a regulatory requirement, in the interests of transparency, CGG has opted to publish the EP in its entirety on NOPSEMA’s webpage
6. Do CGG activities impact the environment?
CGG’s policy is to apply ecodesign principles and mitigations to prevent and remediate potential negative effects on the environment.
Our marine seismic surveys play an important role reducing environmental footprints. Seismic surveys are short term events that provide indirect environmental benefits. First, they reveal which areas are not viable prospects. Second, they reduce the number of wells required to locate and precisely delineate oil and natural gas resources. And third, they reduce the number of wells required to produce the resources that are discovered.
CGG diligently applies risk-based monitoring and mitigation measures which have been tailored to the local environment as a result of the Environmental Impact Assessment. These include specific measures protecting marine life in line with national requirements and international laws and regulations.
The seismic source is progressively started (‘soft-start’) over a period of 20 minutes starting from the smallest single source element to the entire array. Independent Marine Mammal Observers (MMOs) ensure a watch of 30 minutes prior to the soft start from the vessel bridge, monitoring a safety zone of 1000 meters from the seismic source.
If a whale is detected, the soft start cannot take place until a clear 30 minutes has passed without a further sighting. Throughout data acquisition, MMOs have the authority to stop the seismic source so as to prevent any risk of harm to the animal if a marine animal is sighted within the safety zone. Equivalent monitoring and mitigation measures are conducted with passive acoustic technologies, allowing the localization of marine mammals around the vessel through their vocalizations. Records from marine life monitoring and mitigations are sent to NOPSEMA.
Every year, CGG transparently reports its consolidated environmental performance in its sustainability report. Our 10th sustainable development report can be accessed at this link.
More information on the impact of seismic surveys on marine life at this link.
7. Is there a potential impact on fish?
As part of its Care+Protect program, CGG is committed to further investigate the effects of operations on marine life and implement further measures of mitigation where necessary. CGG therefore recently commissioned original research from the UK Universities of Exeter and Bristol to assess the cumulative effect of seismic sound and other man-made sounds such as shipping and pile-driving on fish post-larvae, a very sensitive life-stage. The results, which are published in a high-level peer-reviewed scientific journal, are compelling. After having initially developed some levels of stress as a result of the exposure to seismic sound, the post-larvae have quickly developed a mechanism of tolerance to the seismic sound which has allowed them to eliminate any stress and grow the same way as the post-larvae raised in the same conditions without any exposure to man-made sound.
The Gippsland Environment Plan will assess and discuss potential impacts including on local fish species. Fish can respond differently to seismic sound depending on whether or not they have a swim bladder, a gas-filled chamber that can detect sound pressure. The research on post-larvae referenced above focused on the seabass, a model species with swim bladder. Fish with a swim bladder include blue warehou, jackass morwong, whiting, yellow eyed mullet, Australian sardine and Australian salmon and some species of flathead. Fish with no swim bladder are less susceptible to sound pressure impacts from seismic surveys. These include sharks, rays, mackerel, tuna, as well as many flatfish and flounder.
Past 3D seismic Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA) referenced on NOPSEMA’s website have determined that potential impacts from the survey on all fish, including those with a swim bladder, has been assessed as minor or insignificant, localised, and temporary. It is to be noted that no cases of fish death have been reported from seismic surveys either.
Whenever possible, CGG is contributing to advancing science and bridging knowledge gaps on sound and marine life. This summer, CGG will be participating in the first ever test of the response of free-ranging fish to a real seismic survey by supplying one of its seismic source vessels to a world-class scientific research consortium led by the University of Leiden (Netherlands) and supported by the Joint Industry Program Sound & Marine Life. In such experiment, tagged free-ranging fish will be exposed during a week to the sound of a seismic survey and their behavior will be monitored.
More information on the cumulative impact of man-made sound on post-larval fish at this link.
8. Will this survey mean all fishing in the area will have to be stopped for 5 months?
No, our seismic surveys are designed, planned and executed to prevent potential conflicts of usage with other sea users. Although the potential exists for short-term inconvenience and disruption to the patterns of fishing and aquaculture, the survey lines are therefore carefully planned and discussed with fisheries representatives and other interested parties ahead of and during operations. Early stakeholder engagement and local consultations aim to limit interference to the lowest levels possible. Ongoing communications with all interested parties are maintained throughout the survey.
The seismic vessel sails slowly (about 4.5 knots) and has limited maneuver capabilities due to the length of the towed cables. One or more support vessels escort the seismic vessel, with the duty to establish and maintain communications with other vessels in the area. The proposed program map (see question 3) shows the vessel and acquisition footprint to scale (blue rectangle), within the proposed acquisition area.
9. What kind of consultation process has there been with the local stakeholders?
CGG has contracted RPS, an environmental consulting company, to assist us in communications with the stakeholders. Stakeholder engagement to date has included:
A positive outcome, whereby the survey is completed safely and cost effectively and disruption of fishing activity is minimized, relies on open communications. CGG wants to work with fishers to minimize and mitigate any impacts and invites cooperation from the fishing industry in providing open and honest information on the key areas fished and where they plan to fish between January and July.
CGG thanks all fishers who have taken the time to provide feedback to date and encourages others to provide detailed information on any areas or times of particular importance to their fishery, such that impacts can be minimized further.
10. What scientific surveys are CGG running in conjunction with the Gippsland survey and when will results be available?
CGG takes a proactive stance to ensure independent research is available to address the concerns and uncertainty that our operations may create for the fishing community. We set up an independent scientific advisory committee and, based on their feedback, co-funded, together with the FRDC, two independent scientific research projects to study the potential effects of seismic surveys on octopus and Danish seine fisheries.
CGG is aware of the preliminary results of this research, which showed reduced catch rates of flathead and whiting. For further information, we suggest you contact the principal researcher Ian Knuckey of Fishwell Consulting. We acknowledge the decrease in whiting catch that we, at current, expect is temporary in nature and we have been paying compensation to affected fishers for loss of catch but overall we are seeing a similar decrease in catch both inside and outside the surveyed area.
It has been independently identified that additional research is required to fully understand the patterns and the potential effects of seismic surveys on the local fisheries. CGG continues to commit funding, along with co-sponsor FRDC, to ensure this research is complete, and CGG would like to understand the apparent discrepancies between the research, and the actual catches (from within the survey area), as recorded at the wharf.
11. Is there a mitigation plan for commercial fishers?
CGG has worked with Dr Andrew Levings, a highly experienced Fisheries Liaison Officer, to assist in creating a Mitigation Plan, along with input from the Scientific Advisory Committee. CGG has also contracted Dr Levings to assist fishers in submitting claims and to assess the claims. Fishers can claim for loss of catch or displacement by submitting a simple claim form and sales dockets. The scientific advisory committee are sent an update on claim numbers (claims received, paid, etc.), at the start of each month.
12. What does the NOPSEMA Direction-Section 574 mean?
In accordance with the commitments listed in the Environmental Plan, CGG developed a Fishing Displacement Mitigation Plan (FDMP, see question 11) to mitigate potential requirements of the fishing community to relocate during the seismic survey period. Some months after the start of the survey, CGG began to receive claims from stakeholders and it quickly became apparent that many of the affected businesses were not relocating away from their traditional fishing grounds as per the relocation description in the FDMP (relocating a minimum of 20nm from their usual fishing grounds). Instead, it became clear that fishing vessels were actively working around the seismic survey fleet and were possibly experiencing an increase in travel times as a result of interactions with the seismic survey vessel.
To address this, with direction from NOPSEMA, CGG has adjusted the FDMP methodology to include the assessment of any increased travel. This enables more fishers to receive mitigation for disruption to their fishing activities from the seismic vessel. Please see CGG Gippsland MSS EP Stakeholder Consultation Letter - August 2020 for more information.
To contact RPS directly, email CGGgippsland@cgg.com
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