Key events in 2012

MINERAL RESOURCES

The FUTUNA programme

Industrial partners are pursuing their cooperation agreement « Futuna » with Ifremer. The Futuna programme is the fruit of a cooperation agreement initiated between Ifremer, Areva, Technip France, Eramet, the Agency of Protected Marine Areas and the BRGM.

This public-private partnership has brought about great synergies and has already shown, through the two scientific cruises financed in 2010 and 2011, its efficiency to locate mineralisations in unexposed zones of our exclusive economic zone to the south of the Island of Futuna. Strategies and innovating tools were implemented during the first two cruises. The third cruise was essentially planned to complete the work of phase 1 of exploration in order to engage the second phase as defined by the consortium composed of Technip, Eramet and Ifremer to evaluate the ressources, study the intial state of the ecosystems before the impact of exploitation and study the guidelines of a mining pilot.

Futuna 3 took place from 16 May to 22 June 2012 in the exclusive economic zone of Wallis and Futuna (head of operations Yves Fouquet, Ifremer-Edrome, department of Physical Resources and Deep Sea Ecosystems). The purpose was to determine the location, extension and nature of the hydrothermal mineralisations discovered during the first two cruises in 2010 and 2011 and to study deep sea ecosystems. Five main and two secondary diving targets were anticipated. The general strategy of the cruise was centered on the dives of the Nautile during the day and the dives of the AUV at night. The period between the end of the Nautile dive and the beginning of the AUV dive was used to conduct complementary operations : cartography at 5 knots, hydrocasting and dredging. Thanks to this strategy and to a top-quality team, numerous active and inactive sites were discovered on the first target of study. Considering the extent of the discoveries, the efforts were consequently and more particularly concentrated on this zone. A more detailed exploration of the other targets, certainly as equally interesting, will take place at a later date.

Collective scientific expertise

The CNRS and Ifremer have been mandated by the general commission of durable development to conduct a collective scientific expertise on the environmental impact of the exploitation of deep sea mineral ressources. The study should concern both national waters and deep water zones beyond French jurisdiction. The aim is to take stock of the scientific knowledge of the ecosytems of the areas concerned, the way they function, the services they provide and the uses society can make of them now and in the future. An inventory of the economic analysis of the value of these services will also be made. The potential environmental impact of these services and uses will be identified as will the necessary measures to monitor the environment and control the impact of the different phases of exploitation. The management committee is compiled of personnel from INEE, INSU and Ifremer.

Expertise reports will have been delivered at the end of 2013 and the collective scientific expertise results will be presented during a conference in 2014.

Polymetallic sulphide exploration permit

The 18th session of the International Seabed Authority was held in Kington Jamaica from 16-27 July 2012. The French report was presented and defended by Ifremer with the support of the French government. The Seabed Authority Council approuved, on recommendation of the legal and technical commission, five work plans including that of Ifremer relative to the exploration of polymetallic sulphides. The zone is located along the mid-Atlantic ridge between 21 and 27°N (~ 600 km north-south and ~ 200 km east-west). The work plan includes 100 blocks of 10 km by 10 km, grouped into six clusters of 5 to 25 blocks for a total surface area of 98 660 km².

MARGIN STRUCTURATION AND SEDIMENTARY ENVIRONMENT

MAGIC (Margins of Brazil, Ghana and Ivory coast)

This scientific cruise took place in Brazil from 12th August to 21st September 2012 on-board the R/V Pourquoi pas ?  within a cooperation agreement between Ifremer, IUEM, the University of Lisbon, the University of Brasilia and the research centre Cenpes of Petrobras. The aim of Magic was to better understand the structure and evolution of a transform continental margin using imagery of the sub-surface obtained by multi-channel reflection and wide-angle refraction seismic methods. Several cores and piezometer measures were made in order to distinguish the active processes at the sediment-ocean interface. At the end of the cruise, a report was presented to the Cenpes and the preliminary results to the production manager of the Equator region and the director of Cenpes who were obviously satisfied with the quality of the work and the results. A meeting is planned for December in order to study the future scientific collaboration projects on the Polotas and Espirito Santo margins.

PAMELA

The geoscience representatives of Total and Ifremer decided to instigate collaboration around an innovative project entitled Pamela (“Passive Margin Exploration Laboratories”). Pamela is a research programme on passive margins including subjects such as geological structure, the distribution of sedimentary bodies, instability, fluids and ecosystems. The objective is to provide answers to questions common to both entities. Several meetings took place in November and December 2012 to define the different scientific themes, the academic partners, the organization, structure and governance of the project. Jean-François Bourillet, geologist with the Marine Geoscience Research Unit was designated in charge at Ifremer of the Pamela programme ; Philippe Bourges, head of Research & Development at Total Exploration and Production, his equivalent atTotal.

The scientific themes approached are : the thermal evolution of a margin ; the spatial and temporal distribution of sedimentary system deposits throughout a climatic cycle ; the distinctive feature of a carbonated system ; sea level recording ; the connection at the foot of the slope of lobes and sedimentary surveys ; the relative part of various factors (canyon profile, nature and volume of sediment) on the efficiency of canyon transport ; the influence of the nature of sediments on the behaviour of hydrates ; the search for proxys to detect plumes in the water column ; ecosystems associated with fluid emissions ; the biodiversity of underwater carbonated platforms, etc. Projects underway at Ifremer will be prolonged (Golo, GuinecoMebo) or amplified (Ptolémée) ; projects on hold (Aquitain plumes) will be instigated. This pluri-annual project (five years or more) will be formative for the department of Physical Resources and underwater Ecosystems and the research units of marine geoscience, deep-sea environments and technological developments.

CONGOLOBE

The main objective of this ANR (National Research Agency, coordinated by the LSCE) project was to study the deep sea ecosystems of the terminal lobes of the Congo underwater fan which constitute, due to considerable supplies of terrigenous deposits at great depths, an exceptional case of the study of biodiversity and biochemistry in the region, but also on a world ocean level. The objective consists in making the link between the nature and the magnitude of organic matter deposits from the Congo river and the exceptional ecosystems found in the terminal zone of the canyon. In addition to the description of the biodiversity of these ecosystems, whose biological composition ressembles the chimiosynthetic communities of pockmarks (active zones of fluid emissions rich in methane), we are to study their functioning and quantify the outcome of the organic deposits of the Congo as a direct and indirect source for their metabolism. This ecosystem may be supplied by organic deposits of the canyon/channel system of the Congo, their diagenisis in the first few meters of sediment (or deeper), which could be accompanied by the resulting reduced fluids rich in sulfure and methane. These reduced compounds provide a microbial chemoautotrophic production and the development of dependent biological communities.

The Congolobe project is built on two cruises : WACS (February 2011), exploration of the lobe zone and Congolobe (December-January 2013) which associated geologists (specialists of this undersea fan), organic geochemists to caracterize the origin and reactivity of the organic matter, marine geochemists estimating the recycling and preservation of biogenic compounds, microbiologists studying the diversity and activity of sediment bacteria and archaea and the symbiosis with invertebrates and biologists for the distribution, biodiversity and functioning of faunistic communities.

GEOLOGICAL UNKNOWN FACTORS

MARSITE

Marsite is a European programme studying the seismic risks in Istanbul. Indeed, the area of Istanbul, with more than 15 million inhabitants, is strongly exposed to the seismic risk due to the presence of the north-anatolian fault in the Marmara Sea. It is classed a “supersite” in terms of priority of interest in Europe for the monitoring of natural risks. The European Union has decided to finance up to 7 million euros the programme Marsite within a tender entitled “long-term monitoring experiment in geologically active regions of Europe prone to natural hazards : the Supersite concept. Coordinated by the Koeri, Marsite groups twenty three partners including in France : the BRGM, Ineris, Iffstar, the CNRS (Grenoble, Strasbourg, Brest) and Ifremer.

The programme includes terrestrial, spatial and marine components. The marine component will be coordinated by Ifremer. It will be conducted by Italian (R/V Urania), Turkish (R/V Yunuz of the ITU) and French means. The MarsiteCruise will take place in 2014 in the Marmara sea. For Ifremer, the Marsite programme represents  an essential stake for the promotion of the development of underwater multi-parameter observatories for monitoring the environment and natural risks.

EXTENSION OF THE CONTINENTAL SHELF

POLYPLAC

The Polyplac cruise, conducted from 1-12 September 2012 on board the R/V L'Atalante is part of the Extraplac project whose objective is to submit and convince submissions for extension of the French continental shelf within the frame of the convention of the United Nations law of the sea.

This cruise is the first operation of the project in the region of French Polynesia and was concentrated in a zone to the east of the Marquesas Islands. It took place on board R/V L'Atalante with a scientific Ifremer team including personnel from the centres in Brest and the delegation in New Caledonia. According to the directives for the constitution of a submission for extension, the main objectives of the Polyplac cruise were to determine the features of the natural extension from the terrestrial mass of the Marquesas Islands to the edge of the continental shelf and to supply the characteristics of the foot of slope, limit from which the extension of 60 miles may be proposed. Within this context, the Polyplac cruise was mainly based on the acquisition of multibeam acoustic data in order to map the region, associated with magnetism and sediment coring data and samples made with the rock dredger.