DNV and Statoil are in the throes of the most comprehensive risk review of the Arctic ever done in the industry, Arctic Competence Escalator. The aim is to make exploration in these challenging icy waters as safe as any other area in the world.
(Photo: Ship in the Arctic, DNV)
Arctic Competence Escalator, also known as ACE, is a joint competence program between classification society Det Norske Veritas and Norwegian energy company Statoil to enhance the two companies’ knowledge about particular Arctic challenges.
The 15-month program was kicked off in March this year. But the Arctic was already on the agenda in DNV three years ago, well before the Norwegians signed a historical agreement with the Russians ending the 40-year dispute over the delineation line in the Barents Sea. And ahead of the huge oil finds made in the Norwegian side of the Barents Sea at Havis and Skrugaard, according to Leif Nesheim, DNV project manager for ACE.
“We still had a dispute (with Russia) but we expected a conclusion,” says Nesheim. “At the time there was interest in Greenland and Alaska, oil prices were high, and oil companies had to find more resources. And this area, with the exception of Russia, was a politically stable area. So it was interesting.”
Four Field Cases
The Arctic has become of even more interest lately with the recent new oil discoveries in the Norwegian part of the Barents Sea and the opening of frontier acreage in the South Barents Sea. OMV made a find in Wisting well 7324/1, the most northern discovery ever offshore Norway, and Lundin in the Gohta find, 35 kilometres northwest of Statoil’s Snøhvit field. ACE bases its analysis on four field development cases, one of which is the Norwegian part of the North Barents Sea, north of Bjørnøya.
The other three field development cases included in this joint study are the Chukchi Sea offshore Alaska, Northwest Greenland, and Ohkotsk Sea offshore Russia. Statoil has licence interests either in or near the four areas, but the cases vary tremendously in challenges: the Chuckchi Sea has multi-year ice that does not melt; the Okhotsk Sea has seasonal ice, remoteness for operations and challenges with the Russian legislative system; the North Barents Sea has ice-free summers; and offshore Northwest Greenland poses the risk of floating icebergs.
“Many speak about the Arctic as one place, but it is not one homogeneous area with the same set of opportunities with the same set of opportunities and challenges elsewhere,” said Knut Ørbeck-Nilssen, chief operator officer of DNV’s operations in Norway, Finland and Russia, in its internal magazine. “Generally, its remoteness and harsh environment make the Arctic a challenging place for possible rescue operations and oil spill response operations, for instance. Since there is not one Arctic, but many Arctics, the challenges faced in one area may not be an issue in the others.”
(Photo: Statoil's broadening presence across the Arctic. Statoil)
The ACE group comprises 30 Statoil and DNV employees. They participate in eight workshops, which also take into account outside advice from experts in different fields, such as Betsy Baker, a professor at the Vermont Law School, in the US, Rod Allan from US drilling company Transocean, and Arctic expert Peter Noble from Noble Associates.
As of September, the ACE participants had completed three of the eight workshops. These dealt with a broad range of issues with entering the Arctic: wider social, political, economic aspects, and risk management; metocean, ice data and physical environment: and survey, seismic, and Arctic drilling challenges.
The next semester will cover safe Arctic operations. The first part considers emergency evacuation and rescue, the environment, oil spill, materials and logistics. The second part will discuss ice management. One example is Seadrill’s drilling assignment for Exxon with Russia’s Rosneft in the Kara Sea. The distance is too long to be covered by helicopter and could take three days for a supply vessel to arrive from Murmansk, posing a logistics dilemma for crew changes.
The third and final semester will deal with a broad range of technical issues concerning Arctic facilities. The topics cover topics from design philosophy, ice loading and station keeping, to fixed and floating structures, pipeline and subsea, offloading and transport, and onshore terminal.
“What is unique is that (ACE) covers from early on when you explore oil until you deliver the product at the buyers’ end,” says Nesheim. “You can find a training program on Arctic drilling or ice loads, but you don’t find any comprehensive program from A to Z internationally.”
The four field case groups will update a risk register along the way and sum up their conclusions after each working group session. All of the reports will be assembled next June into a gap analysis that will identify the highest risks and areas the industry needs to put research and development efforts.
Statoil hopes that ACE will be an important driver in obtaining enhanced knowledge and solutions in its Arctic operations. The company has ongoing drilling activities by Newfoundland offshore Canada and plans to drill next year in the Hoop area, located in the northern part of Norway’s South Barents Sea nearby OMV’s Wisting discovery. In the future, Statoil will drill five exploration wells with Rosneft in the Okhtosk Sea and one in Russia’s Central Barents Sea in the Perseevsky license.
“We will actually be more prepared to carry out these activities,” says Morten Karlsen, Statoil manager for Arctic technology. “Not necessarily to do it faster, but to ensure that people are really well prepared for their work. We can enhance the quality of our R&D projects and assure that what is delivered is of the best quality. We are able to go into more detail of each specific challenge.”