NDR – attracting new users and supporting innovation

Source: press release, 25 August 2022

NDR – 230 terabytes of data now available to download
NDR – 230 terabytes of data now available to download (illustration: NSTA)

More than 60 years of seismic data from the North Sea, originally intended to help oil exploration, is now being used in a variety of innovative ways – including locating possible sites for offshore wind farms.

One year on from the relaunch of the National Data Repository (NDR) as a cloud-based system, the highly valued archive has promoted wider access, increased high-quality reporting and reuse of data.

This means the same data which collects information such as the thickness of bedrock, the presence of depressions, faults, and gas pockets, originally for the use of the oil and gas industry can also be used in the renewable sector to help find suitable locations for windfarms or carbon storage.

Originally available in 2019, the NDR was relaunched with help from our partners Osokey and Moveout on 25 August 2021 with 15 terabytes of data online and regular users within the oil and gas industry in more than 100 companies.

Improved functionality includes the option for users of being able to preview seismic data to assess its value to projects before deciding to download it and moving the data into cloud storage has simultaneously eliminated limits on storage capacity and made the data itself more accessible to users.

The data, which encompasses information from the early days of North Sea exploration to the present day, has been used for a variety of purposes including oil and gas exploration, locating potential sites for carbon storage, and assessing locations for windfarms. [as can be seen from the case of RockWave below].

The platform has become a vital tool in the energy transition as the data is put to use by an ever-wider spread of users within – and increasingly outside of the oil and gas industry – which was its original audience and remains a core user group.

Data requests now come in from companies which only a few years ago would not have had any use for it and also from long-time users who are now moving into new areas of the energy transition and are looking again at existing information.

Now boasting 230 terabytes of data, more than 4,000 users in over 250 organisations have downloaded nearly 100 TB data in the past 12 months.

The site is being constantly updated with new information with over 7,000 well data files and documents released this year and over 100 terabytes of seismic data being uploaded recently.

Nic Granger, NSTA Director of Corporate, says, “The NDR is the place to go for information about the North Sea – whether your interest is oil and gas, carbon storage or wind, the data is there and freely available. The incredible thing about this data is that originally, it was reported to NSTA so industry could know where best to drill for oil and gas. Now that same data can help provide the best locations for renewable energy production like wind farms.”

“Users have given the relaunched site a thumbs-up, but we are always working to add more data and improve accessibility to make it even more responsive to industry needs,” Granger adds.

Prof John Underhill, Interdisciplinary Director for Energy Transition, The University of Aberdeen, and Executive Director of the UK’s Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) GeoNetZero, says, “The National Data Repository (NDR) is a rich and extremely valuable source of scientific data that forms the bedrock of numerous world-leading academic research studies. Access to high fidelity seismic, well log, pressure and core data acquired in the pursuit of oil and gas has enabled a new understanding of the sedimentary basins on the UK’s continental shelf.”

“The subsurface characterisation that has been enabled by the NDR is crucial in determining the best use of offshore areas for carbon storage, hydrogen production, wind energy and geothermal as the UK seeks to decarbonise to meet its net-zero emissions targets. As such, the NDR is playing a pivotal role in extending the life of the North Sea in the energy transition,” Underhill continues.

Steve Murphy, Storegga Chief Commercial Officer, says, “The NDR has been invaluable to us for several years as we navigate the complex and changing landscape around carbon capture and storage. High-quality data has a vital role to play in the global energy transition. The NDR allows us to harness the 78 GT potential of the North Sea as a site for a nascent CO2 storage industry in the most cost-effective way.”

“Now more than ever, open access to existing data will allow critical projects to be developed and become operational as soon as possible. We welcome the NDR’s consistent drive towards innovation at this crucial moment on the path towards Net Zero,” continues Murphy.

The NDR – which can be accessed at https://ndr.nstauthority.co.uk – is available free of charge, with organisations able to download as much as three terabytes per calendar month without charge.

RockWave, repurposing and the NDR
In 2015, the UK government funded the NSTA’s acquisition of seismic surveys of the Rockall Trough and greater Mid North Sea High (MNSH).

The project, which was intended to stimulate interest in oil and gas exploration in previously under-explored areas, produced around 40,000 km of new data, which was made freely available in April the following year.

This data joined the terabytes already available from 60 years of North Sea exploration that, since 2019, has been available through the NSTA’s National Data Repository (NDR). NDR data can be downloaded free, and users include the oil and gas industry, academics, and anyone with an interest in offshore geoscience data.

The immediate value of the data to the oil and gas and carbon storage industries was clear as was the use made by academics, but it was not obvious who else may find a use for it.

Then, along came seismic processing specialists RockWave, who decided to look at the data in an unusual way.

Crown Estate Scotland opened bidding on its ScotWind programme to lease areas around Scotland for windfarm developments in January 2021. The usual approach a windfarm developer will take when assessing the site is to look at already available public data, however few, if any, would look to dig into the vaults of oil & gas seismic which is often considered to lack the required resolution within the shallow subsurface.

Working on behalf of engineering consultancy Atkins and a bidding consortium of SSE Renewables, Marubeni and CIP, RockWave looked again at the 2015 MNSH data on the NDR and repurposed it to optimise the resolution within the top 100 metres with the view that this would provide a valuable starting point for Offshore Wind ground models where no UHRS data currently existed. This contrasts with the original oil and gas analysis of the data which would discard information about the shallow subsurface to focus on deep exploration targets.

Utilising the RockWave data, Atkins were able to map the thickness of the bedrock and identify potential hazards such as depressions, tunnel valleys, faults and gas pockets that could undermine the planned siting of a windfarm.

With this additional detailed information, the bidding consortium had a far more detailed understanding than was otherwise available from public mapping sources and fed this information into what would become a successful ScotWind application.

With the volume of data available within the NDR there is plenty of opportunity for data to be utilised for a wide range of purposes. Since then, RockWave have been actively using this approach for Offshore Wind in the Celtic Sea and subsurface storage in other UK locations.

Matt Swan, RockWave Managing Director, says, “When we created RockWave a couple of years ago we had an ambition to take our knowledge and experiences from the oil and gas industry and apply it in the renewables space. One of our early ideas was to see if we could make use of existing oil and gas seismic and we immediately saw the opportunity with the modern NSTA datasets.”

Swan continues, “Proving the concept was one thing, but for it to play a part in a successful Scotwind bid for a highly contested site opens up the potential of this repurposing technique for a host of other uses. The whole process is made much simpler within the UK by the presence of the NDR and the ability for anyone to access a wide range of data. The more data that becomes available in this system, the more the broad energy industry can work collaboratively in this way.”

Nic Granger, NSTA Director of Corporate, says, “This is a perfect example of the power of data. The data collected and made available through the NSTA Digital Energy Platform means organisations can look at it in light of new needs and use it in new ways. We have developed our technology to greatly enhance functionality, and support innovation. I am pleased that this is the case here and, am convinced that as we continue to add more data and greater functionality to the NDR, innovation in support of the energy transition will happen time and time again.”