MED Consultants: advancing vibrocoring technology

Geotechnical equipment manufacturing and services

MED Consultants is a pioneering force in the design, development, and manufacturing of geotechnical tools, specializing vibrocoring devices. With a rich heritage rooted in marine geology, particularly in the Baltic and North Sea regions, MED-C technologies have been at the forefront of advancements in offshore exploration for more than five decades. The company’s tradition of thoughtful engineering and deep understanding of basic science has produced a range of sophisticated coring tools that are easy to handle and deploy.

MED-C’s standard unit is the VC 3/6/9 electrically driven, vibrating coring system. Small and lightweight, the VC 3/6/9 packs enough vertical penetration power to get through even challenging layers, such as till, limestone, clay and pebbles. Its unique 28Hz (or optionally 14Hz) vibrating frequency minimizes friction, ensuring steady penetration of the coring barrel into the sediment, facilitating the extraction of cores up to 9m in length. The cutters, catchers and valves are designed for optimum filling of the barrel. There is no need to dismantle the core barrel to extract the sample, for overall easier handling and efficiency. For deep sea operations, MED-C offers a pressure-compensated version for expeditions at depths of 1,000m. With a streamlined design comprising just four main components, the VC 3/6/9 can be deployed and operated even on smaller vessels with a winch capacity as low as 20kN.

Evolution and innovation

The rise of vibrocoring technology in the latter 20th century was fuelled by growing demand for high-quality sediment samples from the seafloor. MED-C’s engineers were among the earliest contributors to the field and have remained consistent innovators since. The design of the VC 3/6/9 originated in the late 1970s under the skilful hand of Wolfgang Schmidt, an automotive engineer by profession. The models that MED-C produces today still bear hallmarks of that original design, which went into manufacturing in 1982.

Dr Thomas Schmidt in 2004 during a survey with a newly delivered VKG (vibrocorer) system.

Thomas Schmidt, Wolfgang’s son, has been at the helm of MED-C for decades, maintaining the family tradition of craftmanship combined with sophisticated engineering. Integration of the company into the K.U.M. Group, in May 2022, has opened the door for MED-C to expand its R&D and geotechnical tool development while also offering extensive planning and consulting services to an even broader spectrum of clients.

Satisfied clients have for decades used MED-C vibrocoring devices for basic research, oil and gas exploration (including the routing of gas pipelines) and marine aggregate extraction. The company has also engaged intensively with the windfarm industry. Here, MED-C technology has served to provide ground truth data on seabed characteristics and sediments for cable routing and installation, facilitating the expansion of offshore renewable energy infrastructure.

In response to demand from the field, MED-C will release two new vibrocorer models in 2024. The first is a high-powered unit (the HP-VC) boasting 100kN of vibration force – more than triple the 30kN of the standard unit. The second is a miniature 8kN vibrocorer (the MINI-VC) tailored for on-shore use, catering to clients conducting sampling in, for example, pit lakes and rivers. Having only three main parts, the MINI-VC can be transported and assembled by hand and run on a small pontoon with a simple rig and moon pool. Both devices use the 25Hz vibration frequency for optimum penetration and efficiency.

Dr Thomas Schmidt with his crew manufacturing the VKG system in 2004.

Crew assembly and technical expertise

Every project presents unique challenges and requirements. Beyond the roll-out of new technologies and tools, MED-C understands the difficulty clients may face in owning and maintaining their own coring equipment and  keeping skilled technicians on staff year-round. A key element of its strategy is therefore to retain an inventory of containerized vibrocoring systems ready for on-demand deployment around the world, alongside a pool of versatile technicians and operators that can be flown out to implement projects.

Its crews have extensive experience in geotechnical surveying and equipment operation and a commitment to maintaining the highest standards of quality and safety. Ready for mobilization with short lead times, they are adept at anticipating snags and troubleshooting, whatever the project environment and scope.

Trial by storm in Greenland

The value of the uniquely designed MED-C vibrocoring devices was demonstrated in a recent project, in May 2023, in which K.U.M. Offshore partnered with the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland (GEUS) to survey the ocean floor in the Davis Strait off the coast of Greenland. From the start, challenges were anticipated regarding not only the remote location and potential for tempestuous weather, but also the geology of the region, as a glacial sediment called ‘till’ is present, which is like a very wet and dense cement. On a typical expedition, with mud, sand, gravel and rocks, up to 3.5 tons of pull is expected when extracting cores. In Greenland, however, 8-9 tons of pull was required for extraction. In addition, as work got underway winds picked up to 7 Beaufort, causing 3.5m swells, which created issues with tension on the winch. The harsh weather conditions and difficult geology put the team’s troubleshooting skills to the test. Nonetheless, with some on-the-fly adjustments and maneuvering, a total of 79 cores was taken, cut into 1.4m lengths and placed in a container for analysis on dry land. The success of the expedition was attributed to MED-C’s robust and user-friendly vibrocorer equipment as well as the team’s flexibility and ability to resolve challenges.

Future outlook

With a presence both in fieldwork and at the design and development table, MED-C is well positioned to anticipate on evolving industry needs in geotechnical tools and survey solutions. By investing in further technology innovation and strengthening partnerships to meet clients’ needs, MED-C is set to continue its tradition as a leader in geotechnical exploration and development.

MED-C Key Qualities

Innovation and Tradition: MED-C combines pioneering contributions to vibrocoring technology with ongoing evolution of geotechnical tools, upholding a tradition of craftsmanship at the forefront of technological advancements.

One of MED-C’s flagship contributions is a vibrocorer design that reduces friction for maximum sampling efficiency.

Technical Expertise: MED-C’s pool of skilled engineers and technicians ensures the highest standards of quality and safety in geotechnical surveying and equipment operation.

MED-C has options available for every expedition: variable core lengths and diameters, small vessel operation, deep sea operation, a high-power unit for hard sediment penetration, and its MINI version.

Client-Centred Approach: MED-C strives to meet the diverse needs of clients with a range of sophisticated coring tools and flexible deployment options tailored to each project.

With thousands of corings under their belt, and close interaction with clients, MED-C's people can advise on the right tools and options for every expedition.

Resilience and Adaptability: Whatever the challenges of the environment or project scope, MED-C has the ability to overcome obstacles and deliver results.

As during a recent expedition in Greenland, MED-C’s people can often offer work-arounds to get the job done whatever the conditions.

Future-Focused: MED-C prioritizes continued innovation, strengthening partnerships, and a commitment to efficiency, safety, and customer satisfaction.

MED-C is developing several new devices and a range of new options for geotechnical tools, applying its engineering know-how to demands emanating from the field.

Ing Wolfgang Schmidt in 1974 at the first survey with the new VKG (vibrocorer) design.