Trial run concludes with record haul
Hidden Gem is heading for port with her hold full of polymetallic nodules following the successful completion of a two-month deepwater pilot collection test programme in the Pacific Ocean.
Conducted across a small test area in NORI-D by a 130-strong team on board Hidden Gem, conclusion of the trials marks the first time a fully integrated nodule collection system – including riser – has been tested in the Clarion Clipperton Zone (CCZ) since the 1970s.
The milestone comes three years after Allseas signed a strategic alliance with The Metals Company (TMC), formerly DeepGreen, to recover nodules responsibly from the deep ocean floor.
Our state-of-the-art pilot system achieved all ambitious production milestones during the two-month offshore test and commissioning programme in the remote Pacific between Hawaii and Mexico.
The trials concluded with a series of full-scale production runs, which netted a record haul – an estimated 4500 tonnes – of mineral-rich polymetallic nodules.
The expedition, in the CCZ of the Pacific Ocean, rounds off a highly challenging and demanding two-year development, fabrication and testing cycle.
During the historic deep-sea trials, engineers drove the pilot collector more than 83 kilometres across the ocean floor, and transported thousands of tonnes of nodules via a 4.3-kilometre riser system to our surface production vessel Hidden Gem.
Project Manager Rutger Bosland says both the system and those behind it have exceeded expectations.
“By tapping into our offshore capability and deepwater expertise, we have pioneered groundbreaking technology that we are confident can play a key role in support of the energy transition. I want to congratulate the team on this outstanding achievement.”
Unprecedented environmental research
The trials presented a unique opportunity to dozens of marine experts and scientists to conduct extensive environmental impact analysis and research from a dedicated monitoring vessel.
Scientists deployed remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) and autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) equipped with audio, video and water-quality-measuring devices to survey, monitor and sample sediment plumes and noise levels generated by nodule collection and transport operations.
The monitoring programme will continue to gather important scientific data after the conclusion of the collector system tests. Once complete, the monitoring programme will represent the largest scientific study ever conducted in the CCZ.
Upscale the system
With the successful conclusion of the trials, Allseas has proved it can deliver the technology to recover seafloor minerals responsibly from 4.5 kilometres beneath the ocean’s surface. The next step is to upgrade the system to ensure it is capable of full-scale production.
The wealth of environmental data collected will form the basis of NORI’s application to the International Seabed Authority for an exploitation contract. Insight gained from the data will also offer opportunity to advance the design further.
In March 2022, Allseas and partner TMC announced that the pilot nodule collection system would be scaled up to commercial level. The target is a production capacity of 1.3 million tonnes of wet nodules per year, with the upgraded system expected to be ready by Q4 2024.