Title: Geotechnical de-risking of the Irish offshore environment through geological assessment and mapping
Researchers: Dr Mark Coughlan, Dr Mike Long
Given the complexity of seabed and sub-surface conditions in the Irish Sea there are geological vagaries which may never facilitate the deployment of offshore wind. In other areas inhibitors, such as sediment dynamics and overconsolidated glacial deposits, may significantly impact development. Understanding the seabed sediments and sub-surface structure with regard to siting offshore windfarms, therefore, becomes a first order need and the first stage assessment towards a sustainable, national marine energy development strategy. On this basis, this project has been set-up to answer the following central research question: What are the key seabed characteristics and sedimentary process affecting potential offshore wind deployment in the Irish Sea?
Furthermore, we also ask; i. What can sub-seabed morphodynamics and geotechnical parameters detail about the palaeoenvironmental development of the Irish Sea? And; ii. What can we infer from natural laboratories on the seafloor about seabed hydrodynamics and to what extent can they be used in predictive modelling? These questions are critical to our current understanding of the Irish Sea’s Quaternary history and current hydrodynamic regime. Both of which are fundamental to site selection and evaluation for offshore wind development and other marine renewables.
The main objectives of EASTWIND are: 1. To identify and investigate the primary geological and geotechnical constraints to developing offshore wind in the Irish Sea through site evaluation; 2. To identify potential areas for future development and de-risk existing challenges at these sites; 3. To identify data gaps in our current understanding of site development. To date a significant amount of publically available, and industry held, data has already been gathered which is pertinent to the paramount to critically informing site selection and de-risking for offshore marine renewables installations. Foremost, the INFOMAR has extensively surveyed the Irish Sea facilitating the acquisition of high-quality geophysical data and seabed samples.
This project also aims to link up, and build upon, a number of existing projects. Initially, it aims to integrate the results and data generated as part of the iCRAG based Quaternary Seismostratigraphies of Irish Shelf Seas (QuSISS) project and collaborate with Prof. Andy Wheeler and his Marine Geology Working Group at University College Cork/iCRAG who hold relevant data through the Celtic Sea Sedimentary Processes, Quaternary Stratigraphy and Offshore Renewable Energy Development (CeSQuORE) project. This project aims to fully utilise the INFOMAR, and other, databases in addressing the issues highlighted above. From this super dataset, value-added mapping products will be generated. This information will be disseminated through the INFOMAR and iCRAG programmes, and its web based portals, for use as essential baseline information. To ensure sound management and implementation, and to maximise the potential impact, the project will be divided into four phases. Each phase will have its own individual work packages with milestones to mark the completion of these phases and to generate a set of deliverables. This is to ensure a continuous output of information and data from the project during its duration and a dynamic, iterative research methodology.