Ready to Explore the Offshore Arctic?

To unlock the vast, technically recoverable oil and gas resources that are attracting international oil companies to the Arctic will take Herculean effort.
This article appeared in Vol. 10, No. 3 - 2013


Source: Sintef For example, Shell has spent billions of dollars preparing to drill in the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas off northern Alaska, only to have plans cut short in 2012. In addition, Shell was barred from drilling into oil-bearing formations that year by Federal regulators because additional spill prevention and clean-up equipment were not available. Now they have delayed future drilling another year to, as their president, Marvin E. Odum puts it, “give us time to ensure the readiness of all our equipment and people.”

Fortunately for Shell and other companies planning to operate in the Arctic, these are long-term projects and they are now not alone in these endeavours. The Arctic environment can be most unforgiving and a significant proportion of the reserves targeted by the oil companies are believed to lie offshore, in the Arctic’s environmentally sensitive and productive shelf areas. The protection of this fragile environment is a top priority for any company operating in the Arctic. To ensure this end, a new consortium of nine international oil and gas companies has pooled their resources and launched a collaborative effort to enhance Arctic oil spill capabilities.

In January 2012, the Arctic Oil Spill Response Technology Joint Industry Program (JIP) was launched. The purpose of the programme would be to undertake specifically targeted research projects identified to improve industry capabilities and the coordination in the area of Arctic oil spill response. International research programmes under the JIP would be created to enhance industry knowledge and capabilities in the area of Arctic oil spill response and to raise the awareness of existing industry oil spill response capabilities in the Arctic.

Key Areas of Research

Nine international oil and gas companies (BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Eni, ExxonMobil, North Caspian Operating Company (NCOC), Shell, Statoil and Total) support the JIP. The International Association of Oil and Gas Producers (OGP) are providing expertise to the JIP. Leading industry experts and scientific institutions will perform the technical work and scientific studies.

The JIP will manage ten research projects that will cover six different areas: namely 1) dispersants, 2) environmental effects, 3) trajectory modelling, 4) remote sensing, 5) mechanical recovery, and 6) in-situ burning. Each of the individual research projects will have information which can be downloaded from the JIP website. This research is designed to advance the response capabilities relating to an oil spill as well as understanding the environmental effects of a spill and the response activities that follow.

The research will also address the unique Arctic operating conditions that include prolonged periods of darkness, extreme cold, distant infrastructure, sea ice, and a high cost of operation. This collaboration among companies, academic, government and non-government institutions assures the most efficient use of resources, funding, and the expertise to improve the technologies and methodologies for Arctic oil spill response. The JIP’s research project findings will be available either in peer reviewed journals or within its website and general dispensed materials.

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