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Norway Identifies Arctic Spill Knowledge Gaps

Norway Identifies Arctic Spill Knowledge Gaps
The Petroleum Safety Authority Norway, on behalf of the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, has prepared a report that highlights the need for further research into safe Arctic oil and gas operations.

The report considered events such as leaks, blowouts and collisions and identified a number of uncertainties in current knowledge including:

Metocean Data

Information on metocean and ice conditions is vital for safe design and operations in the offshore Arctic environment, and further research is needed, states the report. Over the years, the metocean and ice conditions for an area may change and the ice cap may be reduced. However, years with severe ice conditions cannot be neglected in the future and the importance of taking these conditions into account in the design and choice of technology and equipment is highlighted. The importance of systems for detecting ice in areas where this is no longer common or expected is also highlighted.

A reduction of the ice cap may lead to an increase in the occurrence of significant waves. This may impose new challenges that require further study.

Improved weather forecasting methods are recommended for Polar regions, in particular related to forecasting of polar lows (wave conditions and trajectory paths). This may be achieved by higher resolution meteorological models and improved data collection methods.

According to the report, research regarding detecting smaller icebergs or ice floes should be a focus area. There appears to be limited research related to physical ice management for ice broken into multiple smaller pieces. When ice is broken into multiple smaller pieces, these pieces, when floating on waves, may represent a threat to the facility. The report authors were unable to identify any physical ice management methods for ice broken into multiple smaller pieces. 

The importance of a holistic ice management strategy for ship-shaped production units, such as FPSOs and FPUs, is highlighted. It is recommended that a holistic ice management strategy includes dynamic positioning in ice (vessel vaning and drift), ice loads exerted on the production facility, disconnection requirements and subsequently reconnection possibilities.

Pipelines and subsea structures

Much research is performed on protection of pipelines and subsea structures exposed to loading from the keel of ridges and icebergs. It is suggested that there is still a need for work to be carried out to ensure that pipelines and subsea structures will not be damaged by ice ridges and icebergs. There is still also a need for work to be carried out to detect leaks in pipelines and subsea structures.

Facility design

Much research has been performed related to ice loads on facilities. At this stage, it is not possible to conclude whether all these research activities will result in development of an inherently safe design. 

It is recommended that the need for disconnection options is always evaluated for floating units in ice loading situations. Offshore loading systems that can operate during normal ice drift conditions have been identified. It is, however, noted that during strong ice drift the loading operations can be disrupted. Based on the information identified, it seems as though offshore loading systems that can operate during icing conditions do not exist.

The importance of identifying which ice features represent the design ice loads is
highlighted. Through the work identified in this report it is not clear whether there is a thorough understanding of all types of relevant ice features such as ridges, multi-year ice, ice islands, ice floes, growlers and bergy bits frozen into the ice cover.

Oil spill detection

Detecting an oil spill in remote location, and under ice, is a challenge. Two major industry JIPs have been conducted regarding detection of oil spill in the Arctic. However, there is still uncertainty regarding the detection methods, and the report suggests that there is a need for more research. 

The report, prepared by Proactima, is an Arctic Council initiative, the Task Force On Pollution Prevention (TFOPP). 

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