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CSIRO partnering with Chevron to study the Great Australian Bight

14 September 2015

A significant partnership between CSIRO and Chevron will investigate unexplored deepwater regions in the Great Australian Bight, in the first commercial partnership to operate the marine research vessel, the RV Investigator.

Minister for Industry and Science Ian Macfarlane said the partnership was an ideal example of the benefits from closer collaboration between Australia’s diverse scientific community and industry.

The multimillion dollar Great Australian Bight Deepwater Marine Program, funded by Chevron, aims to answer questions about the geology and ecology of this unique region.

Marine geoscientists will collect core and rock samples over a period of four weeks, to understand the geological history of the Ceduna Basin, while marine biologists will analyse the composition, abundance and distributions of species found.

The program will provide a better understanding of the Basin’s geology and petroleum prospectivity to reduce exploration risks and costs. It will also improve understanding of the ecology and provide baseline data to inform environmental assessments.

“The RV Investigator is Australia’s sophisticated research vessel, which has already completed a number of voyages to gather data and research the marine environment,” Mr Macfarlane said.

“As Australia’s pre-eminent science and research body, CSIRO has a central role to play in providing expertise and applying its track record of research excellence as the Australian Government works to encourage greater collaboration between industry and science.

“While just on our doorstep, the Great Australian Bight remains relatively unknown, but it also represents one of Australia’s most prospective exploration regions for oil and gas.

“This partnership is an example of how science and industry can work collectively to ensure Australia’s offshore hydrocarbon endowment can bring economic and social benefits that are efficient and sustainable.”

In late October, a team of CSIRO scientists will embark on a marine survey to undertake deepwater geological and habitat research.

CSIRO Energy Director Dr Peter Mayfield said the program represents a number of ‘firsts’ for Australia: “It will be one of the longest and deepest science surveys in Australian waters and will utilise equipment such as autonomous underwater vehicles to map sampling areas up to 4500 m below the sea surface.”

“CSIRO is excited to be collaborating with Chevron to help build an enhanced baseline picture of the seafloor and the geology and benthic ecology of the Bight,” Dr Mayfield said.

The program’s Chief Scientist, Dr Andrew Ross, said the program seeks to understand how the seafloor in the region formed millions of years ago.

“In order to do this we’ll be collecting samples from volcanic seamounts, sedimentary rock outcrops and hydrocarbon seeps to determine the timing, chemistry and mechanisms that led to their formation,” Dr Ross said.

“We are expecting to collect up to several thousand geological and biological samples and may even discover new organisms which have never been seen before.

“We’ve been unable to deploy the range of skills and equipment to this type of research in the past as we simply didn’t have access to the kind of capability that is found on board the Marine National Facility research vessel, Investigator.”

The research program will be led by CSIRO in collaboration with a number of academic and Government research agencies including Geoscience Australia and the University of Adelaide.

Following a successful first survey this year, a bid will be made for a second survey in 2016 to collect more detailed data and utilise different technologies such as remotely operated vehicles.

Media contacts: Minister Macfarlane’s Office 02 6277 7070