Sampling equipment

BGS wireline coring system

Wireline bits

Where the target depth of any borehole is beyond the capability of the BGS remotely operated rockdrills, a drillship using wireline core-retrieval techniques is used. This method offers the ability to sample hundreds of metres below the sea bed. Wireline coring combines techniques developed by the oil and gas industry, mining and geotechnical coring tools, and the proven technology of wireline retrieval. BGS has developed and continually upgraded a suite of coring tools and interchangeable inner core barrels that have been successfully deployed on a range of projects

Previous projects:

  • The IODP Baltic Sea Paleoenvironment Expedition in 2013.
  • The ground-breaking IODP Arctic Coring Expedition (ACEX) in 2004.
  • BGS coring operations, such as the programme to survey the deep-water areas west of Scotland during which vessels such as the MV Bucentaur was equipped with the BGS wireline coring system.

During wireline coring, an inner core barrel is dropped (under free fall) through the outer drill pipe, locking in place once it reaches the bottom of the drill string. When the coring operation to fill the inner core barrel is complete, a retrieval tool is lowered down the drill string on a wire (hence wireline). The tool locks on to the top of the core barrel, and on retraction releases the mechanism holding the barrel allowing it to be pulled back up the drill string to the surface. The advantage of this method is that different inner core barrels can be used to cope with varying geology.

The current inner core barrel options are:

  • Piston core barrel for soft formations
  • Push core barrel for soft to firm, and non-cohesive formations
  • Push core rotating barrel for firm and non-cohesive formations
  • Non-rotating inner core barrel for consolidated soils and rock formations
  • Multi-purpose insert rod, allowing sensors to be carried down the drill string or a drill bit to be placed at the core opening for drilling with no core collection
  • Sub-sea downpipe camera used to carry out a safety/environmental survey of the sea bed ‘downpipe’ prior to drilling operations
  • Down-hole logging

BGS 5m rockdrill/vibrocorer (RD1)

The BGS RD1 system being deployed from the German research Meteor offshore Panarea, Italy

The BGS 5m combined rockdrill and vibrocoring system offers the versatility of two sampling systems on one rig. This has the advantage of mobilising one system for a project that allows both hard rock (5m maximum) and soft sediment (6m maximum) to be sampled using the same system.

The RD1 system can be mobilised on any vessel of opportunity that has a Dynamic Positioning (DP) system and suitable A-frame. RD1 has been used for a number of scientific and commercial projects from the Antarctic to the Tropics.

The system can also carry a sub-sea video camera suite that assists accurate landing by having a real-time link to the operators on the vessel.

Previous projects:

  • Sampling hydrothermal vent material offshore Papua New Guinea (led by the University of Freiberg)
  • Sampling offshore Costa Rica (led by the University of Kiel and IFM GEOMAR)
  • Sampling massive sulphide deposits in the Tyrrhenian Sea (led by IFM GEOMAR)
  • Sampling in the deep water areas located west and north of the UK

BGS 55m rockdrill (RD2)

The BGS RD2 system being deployed using dedicated Launch and recover system

The BGS 55m Rockdrill (RD2), is one of our newest remotely operated sampling system. RD2 is capable of coring up to 55m below sea floor in water depths up to 4000m and is operated via its own launch and recovery system (LARS). The system can continuously core in 1.7m sections, and can be outfitted with additional sensors such as gas-flow meters and down-hole logging tools.

The RD2 system will be used in conjunction with the Bremen University (MARUM) MeBo sea-floor rockdrill on future International Ocean Discovery Program (IODP) expeditions implemented by the ECORD Science Operator (ESO).

Previous Projects:

  • RD2 has been used to sample hydrate-entrained sediments from the Sea of Japan in 2013. The maximum coring depth achieved was 32m below sea floor and the system can operate for more than 50 hours on a single deployment
  • Geological sampling in Loch Linnhe, NW Scotland in 2013
  • Geological Sampling in the Firth of Forth, Eastern Scotland in 2013
  • RRS James Cook cruise in 2011 sampling glacigenic sediments around the Western Isles of Scotland and igneous and metamorphic rocks around Flannan and Nun Rock

BGS 3m rockdrill (RD3)

The BGS RD3 system being deployed from the R/V Belgica

The BGS RD3 system is small and compact and can operate in up to 2000m of water. The system is therefore suitable for operations on vessels where deck space is limited and is ideal for when working in shallow water where it is harder for large vessels to operate.

BGS 6m and 3m vibrocorer

The BGS 3m vibrocorer rigged with the recently developed, autonomous, battery-operated system

The BGS 6m vibrocorer being deployed from the stern of the RRS James Clark Ross. The Larsen Ice Shelf is visible in the background during joint operations between BGS and the British Antarctic Survey

Having designed, built and operated vibrocoring systems since the 1970s, these are the BGS's oldest form of powered coring devices with a long and successful track record of recovering high-quality samples from various environments.

BGS currently has two Vibrocorer systems capable of coring either up to 6m or 3m of soft and unconsolidated sediment in up to 6000m of water. Sediments are collected in a plastic liner tube within a core barrel driven by a one-tonne weight and vibrator motor (hence the name vibrocorer) mounted at the top of the rig. Guillotine closure below the core barrel during recovery of the equipment aids in core retention during operations.

The systems are deployed using the vessel’s A-frame and either a ships lift winch, if using the battery-operated system, or the BGS umbilical winch for the full-powered version. Uniquely, BGS vibrocorers utilise a powered winch to extract the core barrel from below sea bed, prior to recovering the rig. This reduces the number of damaged core barrels and more importantly the strain on the lift umbilical.

Previous 6m vibrocorer projects:

  • Britice-Chrono 2014 sampling campaign
  • BGS sampling campaign sampling glacigenic sediments around the sea lochs of NW Scotland 2007 e.g. Summer Isles where the study of these vibrocores form part of the ‘reference section’ of ‘named rock units’ (Annat Bay Formation, Assynt Glacigenic Formation and Loch Broom Shell Bed to name a few)
  • 2009 sediment coring to investigate the Late Quaternary record of Jakobshavns Isbrae across the shelf and adjoining deep-sea sediment fan (JCR175 Greenland)
  • 2011 BGS sampling campaign (JC059) to identify glacial and post-glacial sediment pathways, determine the internal structure of sea floor features and constrain stratigraphy to aid in seismic data interpretation (Sea of Hebrides, Malin Sea, North Channel regions)
  • 2012 NOCS expedition (JC077) as part of the UK’s input to the EC funded ECO2 project aiming to develop a ‘best environmental practice’ for carbon capture and storage industry
  • Sampling glacigenic and Holocene deposits offshore East Anglia (Regional Environmental Characterisation)
  • Sampling around Montserrat for volcanic dome-collapse material (led by Bristol University)
  • Sampling in Antarctica with the British Antarctic Survey

Previous 3m vibrocorer projects:

  • 2014 MINIMOUND project campaign acquired cores from the canyon interfluves (the area between canyon heads) between the Dangeard and Explorer Canyons in the UK’s South West Approaches


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