Research facilitation and management for Newfoundland and Labrador's offshore industry

Sediment Dynamics on the Upper Slope of the Scotian Margin

Lead PI: Dr. Paul Hill
Subject Category: Other

Start Date: Dec 2001
End Date: Dec 2004
Institution / Organization: Dalhousie University

The deepwater areas of the world’s oceans are the new frontiers for oil & gas exploration and production. Roughly 90% of the recent leases offshore Nova Scotia are in deepwater and future deepwater discoveries offshore Newfoundland and Labrador have good potential. 

Deepwater wave and current conditions offshore Atlantic Canada are poorly understood and can cause sediment on the seafloor to move, particularly during storms. This dynamic movement, called ‘sediment transport’, can negatively impact offshore production structures by removing sediment from around supporting pilings or anchors and can cause sediment to be swept away from beneath pipelines, resulting in long, unsupported spans, susceptible to failure. Not being able to predict the frequency and severity of sediment transport events due to storms or shoaling or internal waves can lead to potential risks for deepwater operations.

Dr. Paul Hill of Dalhousie University, lead an expert group of researchers and technologists to investigate deep water sediment transport offshore Nova Scotia. Dr. Hill received a grant from Petroleum Research to conduct field studies using the Bedford Institute of Oceanography’s remote-instrument platform, Ralph, over three years. With matching funds from NSERC, Dr. Hill and his team, including four students and a post-doctoral fellow, made the first-ever observations of sediment transport in the deep waters of the Scotian Slope. Analysis of this unique data set provided a much clearer understanding of the risks associated with shelf-edge sediment transport. The results contributed to the advance of the state of technology and provided real data for industry risk and design considerations.


  • Smyth, C., Hay, A. E., Hill, P. S. and Schillinger, D. (2006) Acoustic observations of vertical and horizontal swimming velocities of a diel migrator. Journal of Marine Research, Vol. 64, Iss. 5, September 2006, pp.723-743(21)

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