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  • Writer's pictureAlastair MacLeod

When RockWave Went to Edinburgh…

Updated: Sep 27, 2023


Embark on an unexpected journey with RockWave in Edinburgh, where geoscience meets adventure. From volcano hikes to quirky technical talks, discover a world of 'Turbine Grease' gin and slow Snickers challenges.

eage near surface in edinburgh and sunny weather

RockWave followers are already aware that since our inception during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic in April 2020, we deliberately structured our company to embrace the widespread adoption of virtual work. This approach has proven successful even as restrictions ease and many return to their office spaces.


While we often refer to ourselves as a 100% virtual company, that's not entirely accurate. Once a month, we gather after work to arrange various activities (axe throwing, anyone?) Additionally, two to three times a year, we convene for a weeklong workshop in a location spacious enough to accommodate our team of ten and the abundance of ideas they bring along.


For our September 2023 workshop, we seized an opportunity presented by the EAGE when they announced the 2023 Near Surface conference was to be held in one of the UK's finest cities—Edinburgh. Where else can you find a volcano and a castle, linked together by a mile of entertainment across the city centre?


This marked the first instance where the EAGE would host a conference stream focusing on 'Subsurface Characterisation for Offshore Wind,' making us especially thrilled. There aren't many forums on the offshore wind conference calendar where RockWave can showcase the value we bring to the industry. Most focus on “downstream” aspects such as engineering, manufacturing and power generation etc. Here was a place where Peter Cox and Nick Woodburn could utter words such as, “pseudo far-field signature” or “demultiple”, and instead of being looked at blankly, they would receive insightful comments or questions. Hurrah!


So, after submitting their technical abstracts and securing a booth on the exhibition floor, RockWave were going to Edinburgh! And since we were going there anyway, we thought, why don’t we just bring EVERYONE and do a workshop?! So, that's exactly what we did.


Why RockWave loves a workshop

The agenda for most workshops is fluid. Sometimes we have big topics to discuss, such as hiring. What type of person should we look for? What benefits should we offer? When should we bring them in? During our very first in-person workshop, our only employees were on temporary contracts, however they also got to participate and provided their viewpoint before any decisions were made. Ultimately they were deciding their own future, as we ended up hiring all 3 on full time employment contracts and at the time of writing, they are all still here! Clearly, we made good decisions.


center parcs workshop
Center Parcs workshop in January 2022

During other workshop topics, we’ve tackled technical challenges that necessitate group brainstorming and discussions on how we can overcome them, or simply focused on ongoing projects but in a shared physical space, offering a refreshing change from the usual virtual meetings. The main objective is to be together and foster stronger connections among the team, transforming the pixels we see daily into meaningful bonds. Such bonds were almost tested at Center Parcs in February 2023, when Matt Swan organised his own version of "The Traitors" game (as seen on TV), and Technical Director Nick Woodburn met a fictional demise orchestrated by traitors Greg Hulks and Rachel Ward. Read more about that here.


During our time in Edinburgh, some of the team attended the conference while others stayed at our accommodation—a spacious apartment in central Edinburgh. Therefore, it made perfect sense for the theme of this workshop to revolve around regular project work. This also provided an excellent opportunity for Connor Boylan, in only his second week with RockWave, to get to know and learn from the rest of the team and ask the numerous questions that come with learning any new processing and imaging software package.


EAGE Technical Program and RockWave Papers

The EAGE Near Surface conference in 2023 encompassed both a conference and an exhibition. Nick and Pete from RockWave, along with Bartosz Kurjanski from Atkins/University of Aberdeen, dazzled their audiences with captivating talks. Meanwhile, Matt and Alastair shouldered the responsibility of manning the RockWave booth and serving Turbine Grease (explanation to follow) on the exhibition floor.


Nick Woodburn presented his paper, co-authored by Bruce Samuel of RPS and Dave Monk of ACTeQ, titled “Practical Considerations for Optimising 3D Ultra-High-Resolution Seismic (UHRS) for Efficient and Effective Ground Model Building.” The presentation showcased examples from RockWave’s processing of the Vineyard Wind P-Cable 3D UHRS survey, acquired offshore the US East Coast.


3D UHRS processing at vineyard wind

Nick emphasised how acquiring 3D UHRS seismic data could revolutionise the coverage of entire areas of interest at offshore wind farm sites, eliminating the need for additional geophysical surveys when modifications to turbine array designs are required to account for engineering considerations. However, to unlock the full potential of such datasets, aspects of the 3D acquisition set-up, such as source array size and the (currently) sporadic inclusion of near-field hydrophones, should be reconsidered.


Peter Cox presented "Unlocking the Potential of Oil and Gas Seismic Data by Repurposing for Offshore Wind Farm Ground Models", co-authored by a team at Atkins, including Andrew Hart, Jordan Greer, Clement Tam, and Bartosz Kurjanski. Matt Swan of RockWave somehow managed to slip into this list, but you’d better ask him how he managed that!

repurposing oil and gas seismic data for offshore wind farms

This paper elaborated on how RockWave has successfully managed to “Repurpose” oil and gas seismic data to extract previously concealed information about the sub-seabed. This information contributes to an engineering ground model for a fixed or floating offshore wind farm array. There are hundreds of thousands of kilometers of oil and gas seismic datasets globally, covering areas now proposed for wind farm developments. Pete highlighted the immense value that can be gained by utilising existing data, processing them in a way that uncovers relevant information. Find out more about RockWave’s Repurposing Library.


Lastly, Bartosz presented his talk in collaboration with Claire McGhee, Jordan Greer, Edward Henden, Andrew Hart, Giorgio Maderni (Atkins), Peter Cox, Greg Hulks & Matt Swan! (RockWave), and Zbigniew Ostapiuk (Ocean Winds). The talk, titled "Quantifying the Reduction of Ground Modelling Uncertainty Achieved Through Seismic Data Reprocessing and Reinterpretation", marked the first time anyone had objectively attempted to quantify the improvement in seismic interpretation and ground modeling resulting from reprocessing UHRS seismic data.


Bartosz Kurjanski giving talk using rockwave data

Bartosz' work aimed to integrate both qualitative and quantitative methods, fully capturing the uplift in the quality of information. This information becomes a crucial input for engineering design. The paper was impeccably presented and ignited a sense of excitement among everyone at RockWave, presenting tangible evidence of the difference our teams have made in improving subsurface understanding. The study demonstrated that RockWave's reprocessing instilled greater confidence in the interpretation, with horizons requiring repositioning by over 2.5m across more than 50% of the site. In some areas, this value surpassed 20m! Considering the capital expenditure required for >3000m of steel at a typical modern wind farm development (100 monopiles at 30m length), engineers working on later phases of Baltic Sea development would undoubtedly appreciate the significance of this re-interpretation.



Sunset on Arthur’s Seat

It is quite common to experience a final dose of summer weather during September, but we were especially lucky to have a week of warmth and sunshine for our entire visit to Scotland.


This fuelled our excitement about the week ahead and so on the Monday evening we decided to forgo the usual <restaurant followed by pub> routine and spread the word that RockWavers were going to climb Arthur’s Seat to catch the sunset from the summit, and anyone was welcome to join.


Conference attire isn’t typically optimised for hill hikes, and with the official EAGE icebreaker session overlapping our plans, we suspected it might be a tough sell convincing people to come.


But that didn't deter ten hardy souls from joining the ten RockWavers on their quest for scenic glory. Participants hailed from Ørsted, Rambøll, NGI, Aberdeen Uni, and even Gardline and Shearwater! Despite some initially hapless navigation from the squad leader (whose name I can’t quite remember), everyone reached the summit unscathed, ready to crack open a victory beer handed out by our newest employee and reliable beer mule (a crucial part of any good initiation), Connor, who had lugged them to the top.


geoscientists enjoying sunset on Arthur's Seat in Edinburgh.

Ever been to the top of Arthur’s Seat? Clearly, millions have, given how polished the rocks are from rubber soles. Descending proved tricky, especially for those who assumed conference shoes would suffice on a rare bogless day on a Scottish hill. Thanks to everyone who joined us for a spectacular evening of scenery, great chat, and post-hike fun in the bar.


Inspiring the next geoscience generation

Over the three busy days of this years’ Near Surface Geoscience conference, the exhibition floor bustled with activity during breaks in the technical talk schedule, providing Matt and Alastair with an opportunity to connect with many familiar faces. It's astounding how well you can know someone despite never meeting them in person. And of course, the booth was especially busy because news had spread around delegates that samples of “Turbine Grease” gin were available.

turbine grease gin designed by rockwave distilled by whatahoot

Students were eager to grab a sample when they visited the RockWave booth as part of their tour around the exhibition floor to meet exhibitors and hear about potential careers in geoscience. Since early 2022, RockWave has provided paid work experience to 16 geoscience-related degree students, many of whom have transitioned to full-time roles within the industry. Meeting these students was a pleasure, giving us the chance to explain why RockWave exists and the kind of real-world energy transition projects they can be a part of—from the comfort of their homes. Zero commute, no more bartending or shelf stacking—just industry-relevant work experience!



If you're a student interested in joining our ranks, send an email to seismic@rockwave.xyz with “Student Army” in the subject line, and we'll get back to you promptly.



Adventure to Pitlochry & Ben Vrackie

Our week in Edinburgh culminated with a whole-company excursion on Thursday, where everyone took a break from processing and imaging to gather at Waverley station and embark on a journey northwards. We often speak about our collective “fascination for geoscience.” In fact, it's captured within one of our company values (PEOPLE: unleash your fascination) to remind us why we get out of bed in the morning. For many of us, choosing a geoscience career was influenced by childhood experiences exploring natural landscapes with our parents, leaving a lasting (mostly positive!) impression.


To truly embody our values, we headed to Pitlochry in pursuit of the summit of Ben Vrackie (Corbett: 841m altitude… https://www.walkhighlands.co.uk/corbetts/ben-vrackie). The weather had been phenomenal all week, and this day was no exception. Even the forecasted zero wind, a potential source of anxiety, proved unwarranted, as the rumor that all midges drop dead on 1st September held true.


The hike from Pitlochry train station was a continuous uphill climb, and our sweat glands kicked into high gear when we were barely past the local COOP shop. Our next company value (SERVICE: deliver beyond expectations) was evident halfway up the climb when Nick Woodburn made a video call to his client, explaining an email in greater detail than could be conveyed through text alone #workfromanywhere. We all made it to the summit after a steep final ascent. Even our most experienced member, Steve Drewell, arrived just in time for lunch, despite only a moderate level of complaining about yet another RockWave fitness event (our last few socials have been tennis, climbing, cycling and running).


The weather and the views from the summit were so enjoyable that we stayed there for over an hour, just relaxing and taking in the view, which included the famous (amongst physicists) mountain, Schiehallion, chosen for an experiment to estimate the density of the Earth in 1774 (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schiehallion_experiment).


There's no better beer than the one consumed immediately after a day in the mountains, so we descended with this in mind, heading to the Moulin Hotel to celebrate a great day (and week) spent together. With 30 minutes to spare before our train back to Edinburgh, we passed the time by inventing a new game in which we competed to see who could eat a Snickers bar the slowest. If you want to know the rules of this game for your own group social entertainment, contact us via seismic@rockwave.xyz.


Our third and final company value is ADVENTURE: Dare to Discover. If you're a geophysicist and the prospect of life at RockWave excites you, if you're keen on exploring new paths, challenging tradition, and eagerly discovering where this journey takes you, then perhaps we could be a cultural fit. Follow us on LinkedIn to hear about our next hiring campaign and make sure you submit your application—no CV required!



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