Explore Green™

Leading our industry, responsibly 


Our vision at Polarcus is 'to be a pioneer in an industry where the frontiers of seismic exploration are responsibly expanded without harm to our world'. That vision is underpinned by our values of Responsibility, Innovation and Excellence, instilled throughout the business lifecycle at Polarcus. Polarcus' Explore Green™ agenda provides the framework for responsible exploration on our journey to turn vision into reality. Explore Green™ is central to our culture of Being Polarcus.

The public debate on environmental matters is becoming increasingly vocal across the globe, with a corresponding demand for greater transparency from companies of all types. In our own industry we are witnessing an expansion into new frontiers and environmentally sensitive sea areas ("ESSA's") as existing reserves diminish and the important search for future global energy continues. This is already driving calls for higher levels of environmental compliance from all participating stakeholders in the value chain, including seismic companies.




Managing Our Air Emissions


Managing Our Emissions to Air


To minimize and reduce our environmental footprint, all Polarcus vessels have been equipped with emissions reducing or eliminating technologies. This includes selective catalytic reduction systems which reduce harmful exhaust gas emissions. 

We welcome and support the global challenge set by the International Maritime Organization ("IMO") and the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships to minimize airborne emissions from vessels. 

With a DNV GL certified emissions monitoring and reporting tool, we stand at the forefront of measuring, monitoring and mitigating emissions to air. 

We fully disclose our emissions from operations as part of our quarterly earnings reporting, find the reports here.


Heavy Fuel Oil ("HFO") vs. Marine Gas Oil ("MGO")


Heavy Fuel Oil consists of residual refinery streams from the distillation or cracking units in the refineries. The crude quality as well as the refinery process governs to a large extent what type of HFO you´ll end up with. For example a high sulfur crude will result in a high sulfur HFO and will contain high levels of carcinogenic polycyclic aromatics ("PCA").

Under the Dangerous Substances Directive as set out by the UN, all HFO’s on the market today are classified as carcinogenic (cat. 2), harmful and dangerous for life and the environment.

Cleaner bunker fuels are available, such as marine diesel oil ("MDO") and MGO. These are distillates from the refinery process with much lower viscosity, lower sulfur content (MDO usually has <1% Sulfur, MGO< 0.2% Sulfur) and lower PCA than HFO.

We have accordingly chosen NOT to use HFOs for our seismic fleet in keeping with our vision of being an environmentally responsible service provider.

We use low-sulfur MGO across our seismic fleet and the vessels supporting our operations.

SOx Emissions


Sulfur oxides ("SOX") is the generic term for a group of highly reactive gasses containing sulfur and oxygen.  SOX are produced during the combustion of hydrocarbons and are toxic gasses which contribute to the formation of acid rain. Sulfur Oxides are respiratory irritants, and can harm crops and trees and corrode metal. In combustion emissions, the SOX content is directly proportional to the type and quality of fuel being used. The best way to minimize SOX emissions in vessel exhaust is to start with the cleanest fuel possible.

We are the ONLY seismic contractor committed to using low sulfur content MGO throughout all our operations.

NOx Emissions


Nitrogen oxides ("NOX") are produced during the combustion of hydrocarbons and are key ingredients in ground-level ozone or smog and are precursors to the formation of acid rain.

Nitrogen dioxide ("NO2") is a major ozone depleting greenhouse gas that has ~ 300 times more impact per unit weight than carbon dioxide ("CO2").

An HFO consuming 12-streamer vessel produces 2.3 tonnes of NOx daily. The average NOX emitted by each Polarcus vessel in 2014 was 0.6 tonnes per day.

We are the ONLY seismic contractor committed to monitoring and reducing our global NOX emissions.





We envision to be a pioneer in an industry where the frontiers of seismic exploration are responsibly expanded without harm to our world.




Managing Our Sea Emissions  



Ballast water treatment system

Ballast water is required to ensure stability, trim and structural integrity of a ship. On a seismic vessel it is used to replace the weight of consumed fuel and to offset the weight of deployed streamers in order to maintain stability.

It is estimated that as many as 4,500 invasive species of plants and animals are transported per day in ships ballast around the world. The introduction of invasive marine species into new environments by ships ballast has been identified as one of the greatest threats to the world’s oceans and to global biodiversity.

The Polarcus fleet operates with the Alfa Laval PureBallast water management system which is 100% chemical free and eliminates all invasive species from the ballast water.

Filling the Ballast tank



Emptying the Ballast tank





Bilge water treatment system


Bilge water is not exactly water, but rather a mixture of fresh water, sea water, oil, sludge, chemicals and other ship-board fluids. By design, it collects in the lowest compartment of a ship’s hull below the waterline where the two sides meet at the keel. This area is known as the bilge or bilge wells.

Current IMO regulation mandates that discharged bilge water shall contain no more than 15 ppm of oil residue.

We operate state of the art bilge water treatment plants that clean the contaminated water to <5ppm, which is 300% below regulatory levels.















The proximity of seismic operations to marine mammals and the effects that the source arrays might have on their well-being has long been studied. Whilst research into this subject is still ongoing, mammal disturbance mitigation will continue to be a high priority for Polarcus.

We are the ONLY seismic operator in the industry to have Passive Acoustic Monitoring ("PAM") systems permanently installed on its vessels.

An exclusion zone of 500m radius, centered on the sources, covers an area in front of the vessel to the outer edges of the front end of the streamer spread.
Soft starts are used to warn marine mammals and sea turtles of pending seismic operations and to allow sufficient time for those animals to leave the immediate vicinity. 






Polarcus fleet are the ONLY Triple-E™ rated vessels in the seismic industry, and the ONLY Triple-E™ level 1 vessels in the world.



Polarcus & Triple-E




As an industry pioneer in environmental responsibility, we participate in the DNV GL Environment, Energy, and Efficiency (“Triple-E™”) voluntary rating initiative. Triple-E™ is a mechanism for ships to be certified, based on quantifiable verification of their environmental performance. It also serves as a tool to help ship owners and operators benchmark and improve environmental performance.

It is comprised of four levels, from level 4 to level 1, with level 1 being the highest. The key elements of the Triple-E™ rating initiative are:

  • Energy efficient ship design
  • Environmental management system
  • Onboard energy efficiency management
  • Supported IMO initiatives for pollution control
  • Verifiable measuring, monitoring and reporting

At the close of 2014, with the exception of Polarcus Nadia, the entire Polarcus fleet had obtained Level 1 Triple-E™ and we continued to be the only ship owner in the world to have achieved this.





Key Elements


Ship Energy Efficiency Management Plan ("SEEMP") - this is a plan unique to each vessel which sets out how energy savings can be made using the Energy Efficiency Operational Indicator as a monitoring tool and benchmark (save energy, reduce greenhouse gases).

Energy Efficiency Operational Indicator ("EEOI") - provides a mechanism to monitor and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from ships in operation and is an integral part of the SEEMP. EEOI = Mass (t) of CO2 emitted per km2.

Verifiable Emissions Tracking and Reporting – accurate measuring and monitoring of emissions is the key to reduction. We have a DNV GL certified emissions reporting and tracking tool.

We present each of our clients with an Emissions Certificate detailing the emissions to air during the seismic campaign.