The Mapping of a New Subsea Market

August 2018

Published by GCE Subsea on 21 August 2018

Swire Seabed has started Norway’s first commercial cruise to map marine mineral resources on the Norwegian continental shelf on behalf of the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate. This can become a new market for them and possibly for the entire subsea industry.


Marine mineral resources in Norway have so far only been mapped in research projects, primarily by the University of Bergen (UiB). After the Ministry of Petroleum and Energy assumed administrative responsibility for mineral deposits on the continental shelf in 2017, the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate (NPD) has been assigned the task of mapping potential deposits.

The Market Drivers

Global growth within renewable energy, electric transportation and hi-tech products requires access to mineral resources. Economic importance and supply-risk make deep sea mining an important global topic. Jan Arvid Ingulfsen, Senior Advisor Survey & AUV Operations at Swire Seabed sees the potential. – Our subsea equipment and competency is very well suited for this emerging market. Currently the main activity within deep-sea mining is related to mapping, which is one of our core expertises, says Ingulfsen.

The world’s first large-scale exploitation pilot was conducted in Japan last autumn. Nautilus Minerals are currently developing the Solwara 1 project at about 1600 meters water depths in the Bismarc Sea 30km off the coast of Papua New Guinea, which is becoming the world’s first commercial deep-sea exploitation project. 

Underwater Mining Conference in Bergen

Ingulfsen attended the Underwater Mining Conference (UMC) in Berlin in 2017 to learn more about the industry potential and he is looking forward to UMC being arranged in to Bergen in September. – We will be giving a presentation about our autonomous technology for mapping of seabed minerals. – It is very exciting that we were awarded the contract by NPD to do mapping of minerals this summer, which brings a new dimension to our expertise, which we also will cover in our UMC presentation.

Pre-project Funding from GCE Subsea

Swire Seabed has been active in developing innovative autonomous marine monitoring solutions through their contract with Ocean Infinity Inc. They have conducted missions with up to eight autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) operating in conjunction with unattended surface vessels (USV) and a single ship.  – Deploying eight AUVs at one time has never been done before, says Ingulfsen.

– We are currently, with the support from pre-project funding from GCE Subsea, working on extending the autonomy and cost efficiency in survey and inspection, Ingulfsen concludes. 

Hidden Minerals

Earlier this summer, UiB conducted a dedicated marine mineral mapping cruse on behalf of NPD. Now Swire Seabed have started an extensive data acquisition expedition to carry out the mapping of potential sulphide minerals on the seabed over the Mohns Ridge.

Current mapping of marine minerals is biased towards active underwater volcano regions, and large parts of the ocean have been limited or not explored at all. The focus of the ongoing expedition is non-active extinct systems that are now left as mineral-rich piles of gravel on the seabed. These are not easy to find and the mapping will be carried out using an autonomous underwater vehicle, a Kongsberg Hugin AUV, which maps the seabed using a number of instruments: bottom-penetrating echo sounder, multibeam bathymetry, synthetic aperture sonar data, magnetometry and spontaneous potential field data. Sampling will be carried out using an ROV.


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