Title: EXtreme environments: High PRESsure Sampling and experimentation system for deep sea hydrocarbon releases
Funding: Hellenic Foundation for Research and Innovation (ΕΛΙΔΕΚ)
Summary: The deep-sea, often referred to as Earth’s “inner space”, remains the last frontier on our planet. As technological advancements drive the “blue economy” in increasingly deeper waters, the rate at which the deep sea is exploited will outpace the rate at which we understand the consequences of anthropogenic impact on this fragile and pristine habitat. Ultra-deep drilling for oil and gas at depths >2000m is still in early stages, but exploration and exploitation of reserves at these depths is likely to increase in coming years as advanced drilling technologies become available, concomitantly increasing the risk of deep-sea accidental hydrocarbon releases. Effective mitigation measures at great depths require solid scientific knowledge of the ecosystem’s response to such perturbations. In the case of deep-sea ecosystems, this is achievable solely through ex situ experimentation at conditions that mimic the in situ environment. Hydrostatic pressure is a key environmental parameter that has been largely overlooked in bioremediation studies due to technological challenges in obtaining and maintaining samples at high pressure (>20MPa). The X-PRESS project will develop technologically-advanced instrumentation for high-pressure seawater sampling and ex situ experimentation without decompression at any stage of the process. The capability of deep-water microbial communities for hydrocarbon degradation and the efficacy of dispersants as bioremediation enhancers will be studied in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea to depths reaching 4000 m (i.e., 40MPa). The X-PRESS sampler and lab incubation unit will be a national asset, unique among Eastern Mediterranean countries with offshore oil and gas development and will will greatly enhance our understanding of deep-sea ecosystem functions and potential impacts from offshore energy installations.
Hellenic Foundation for Research and Innovation (ΕΛΙΔΕΚ)