Latest publication on Proximate underwater soundscape of a North Sea offshore petroleum exploration jack-up drilling rig in the Dogger Bank

4th January 2021

OSC is pleased to announce our latest publication, Proximate underwater soundscape of a North Sea offshore petroleum exploration jack-up drilling rig in the Dogger Bank, (Todd et al., 2020b) published in the peer-reviewed Journal of the Acoustical Society of America. This article was co-authored by OSC’s managing directors, (Dr Victoria Todd and Ian Todd), three additional OSC staff, and Dr Maximilian Ruffert, Reader at the School of Mathematics and Maxwell Institute, University of Edinburgh.

Near-field soundscapes surrounding offshore Oil and Gas (O&G) platforms are not well known or published due to logistical and financial challenges regarding difficult or unsafe access to data collection locations. Visual and acoustic records of marine mammals within the vicinity of O&G platforms exist (e.g. Todd et al., 2009; Todd et al., 2016; Todd et al., 2020a); however, this has not yet been extended to rig-associated soundscapes. Todd et al. (2020b) investigated routine underwater noise produced by a jack-up exploration rig and estimated potential exposure to harbour porpoise within vicinity of the rig.

Harbour porpoise mother & calf around drilling rig.

Todd et al. (2020b) documented received levels (RLs) and frequency characteristics of noise emitted throughout rig-associated operations. The rig produced sound pressure levels (SPLs) of 120 dB re 1 µPa in the frequency range of 2–1,400 Hz. A difference of 15–20 dB was measured between softest (holding) and noisiest (drilling) operations. Please read the article to find out more about methods and results.

The main finding in this article shows that noise emitted from an O&G jack-up exploratory drilling rig in a shallow area of the North Sea is expected to be audible to harbour porpoises up to 69 m from source at the measured frequencies; however, it is unlikely to interfere with or mask echolocation clicks (used for communication and foraging). Complementary study showed harbour porpoise actively foraging around jack-up rig installations within the vicinity of Dogger Bank (Todd et al., 2009; Todd et al., 2016). 


Todd, V.L.G., Pearse, W.D., Tregenza, N.C., and Todd, I.B. (2009): Diel echolocation activity of harbour porpoises (Phocoena phocoena) around North Sea offshore gas installations. ICES Journal of Marine Science 66, 734 – 745.

Todd, V.L.G., Warley, J.C., and Todd, I.B. (2016): Meals on wheels? A decade of megafaunal visual and real-time Passive Acoustic Monitoring detections from on-tow and stationary offshore oil and gas rigs and platforms in the North and Irish Seas. PLoS ONE 11, 25.

Todd, V.L.G., Lazar, L., Williamson, L.D., Peters, I., Cox, S.E., Todd, I.B., Macreadie, P.I., and McLean, D.L. (2020a): Underwater visual records of marine megafauna around offshore anthropogenic structures. Frontiers in Marine Science 7, 230.

Todd, V.L.G., Williamson, L.D., Jiang, J., Cox, S.E., Todd, I.B., and Ruffert, M. (2020b): Proximate underwater soundscape of a North Sea offshore petroleum-exploration jack-up drilling-rig in the Dogger Bank. The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 148, 3971-3979.

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