Vol 75, No 2 (2024)
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Published online: 2024-06-28

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Evaluation of North Sea saturation procedures through divers monitoring

Jean-Pierre Imbert1, Axel Barbaud2, Sian Stevens3, Craig Miller3, Hilary Peace45, Helene Rossin6, Alain Letourneur6, Philip Bryson45, Bo Damsgaard7, Costantino Balestra8910
DOI: 10.5603/imh.99606
Pubmed: 38949219
IMH 2024;75(2):89-102.


Background: Saturation diving is a standard method of intervention for commercial diving during offshore operations. Current saturation procedures achieve a high level of safety with regards to decompression sickness but still put the divers under multiple stressors: 1) Environmental stress (long confinement, heat/cold, dense gases, high oxygen levels), 2) Work stress (muscular fatigue, psychological pressure, breathing equipment, etc.), 3) venous gas emboli associated with decompression, 4) Inflammation related to oxidative stress and microparticles. We present the results of a saturation divers monitoring campaign performed in the North Sea Danish sector, on the Tyra field, during 2022. The study was supported by TotalEnergies, the field operator, and performed by Boskalis Subsea Services, the diving contractor, onboard the diving support vessel Boka Atlantis. The objective was twofold: document the level of diving stress during saturation operations in the Danish sector, and compare the performances of two saturation procedures, the Boskalis and the NORSOK procedures. Materials and methods: Fourteen divers volunteered for the study. The monitoring package include weight and temperature measurements, psychomotor tests (objective evaluation) and questionnaires (subjective evaluation), Doppler bubble detection and bioimpedance. The results were presented in a radar diagram that provides a general view of the situation. Results: The data were analysed along 3 dimensions: work and environmental, desaturation bubbles, oxidative stress and inflammation. The results showed little or no variations from the reference values. No bubbles were detected after excursion dives and the final decompression, except for two divers with a grade 1 after arriving at surface. No statistical difference could be found between the Boskalis and the NORSOK saturation procedures. Conclusions: At a depth of 40–50 msw corresponding to the Danish sector, the two saturation procedures monitored induce no or little stress to the divers. The divers know how to manage their diet, equilibrate their hydration and pace their effort. Data available on divers’ post saturation period show a recovery over the 24–48 hours following the end of the decompression. Further research should focus on diving deeper than 100 msw where a greater stress can be anticipated.

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