Calecore - Polar explorers

When were you set up and what were you trying to achieve?
Karen Freeman:
Calecore was formed in November 2009 by directors Steven Lloyd and Richard Parkinson after they identified a gap in the market for the provision of integrated offshore geophysical and geotechnical site investigations. The company started with just one vessel, the geotechnical drill ship Highland Spirit, but it quickly established itself as a key player in the survey industry. Five years on, it boasts a growing fleet of vessels, a number of overseas offices and a glowing portfolio of projects undertaken worldwide.

Its second ship, the Ice-class vessel Kommandor Stuart, was chartered in early 2010. The following year the vessel undertook a six-month survey offshore Greenland, working in extremely challenging conditions. Building on the success of that project, Calecore has established a reputation for working in some of the harshest and most remote parts of the globe, from deep geotechnical and site survey campaigns in high-risk locations off East Africa, to the extreme conditions of the Russian Arctic. During each project, it has met every challenge head on, while ensuring delivery of all operations to the highest standards and, most importantly, maintaining an excellent safety record.

To support Calecore's rapid growth, a third vessel, Kommandor Calum, was taken on long-term charter in 2013 and offices were established in Stavanger, Norway, Singapore and Moscow. Turnover has increased from £9 million in 2010 to £35 million and the firm employs more than 100 people.


Tell us about Calecore's work in the Kara Sea and Russian Arctic.
In 2014, Calecore partnered with Romona and was awarded a Kara Sea contract for a second year, following a successful 2013 campaign. This year, the programme was bigger and involved mobilising three vessels, Kommandor Stuart, Kommandor Calum and Highland Spirit.

Each was prepared and mobilised in Kirkenes before beginning its journey east for the Kara Sea. The client requested extended offshore vessel durations to maximise workability in ice-free conditions.

Calecore modified Kommandor Calum and Highland Spirit to six-week endurances, ensuring maximum data acquisition for 2014. Using Kirkenes and Murmansk ports again made for challenging logistics for remote operations, with both ports on the Arctic Circle and still three or four days' transit from the work sites. All logistics to support the vessels were well executed and the whole project was managed from the new Moscow office, closely supported by head office in the UK.

What were the main challenges of this project?
The shallow geology is tough to image and, drawing on the 2013 experience, Calecore increased its range of seismic imaging tools to include Huntec's newly designed and built Deep Tow technology, which comprises a high-resolution boomer and sparker system in a single towfish. In addition to this, a Georesources sparker system complemented the air-gun arrays for ultra-high-resolution seismic (UHRS) and high-resolution seismic (HRS) capabilities.

In addition to site survey acquisition for the client's exploration programme, both geophysical vessels were required to acquire data to ensure they followed their robust in-field clearance procedures to undertake risk assessment for safe borehole drilling on Highland Spirit. The area is still relatively unknown, with potential for permafrost and shallow gas, so this aspect of the data acquisition, processing and interpretation was critical to the campaign.

Calecore acquired more than 5,600 line kilometres of geophysical survey data from the Kommandor Stuart and Kommandor Calum during the 2014 campaign.

Highland Spirit, in addition to her endurance upgrade, also saw upgrades to the drilling spread. From the data acquired last year 2014 had significant requirements to undertake pilot holes prior to sample holes. Part of the drill rig upgrade included the mobilisation of the QDtech Alien Coring system, which allowed Calecore to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of pilot-hole drilling. For the works, it also mobilised a seismic CPT system to the drill rig to maximise the data collected to better understand the soils in this remote area.

During the 2014 campaign the Highland Spirit successfully and safely drilled 39 locations totalling over 1,200m, and achieved composite drilling up to 4.5m an hour.

After a successful campaign, all vessels safely demobilised in October to Kirkenes, where the team was lucky enough to see some stunning displays of the Aurora Borealis.

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