Arctic technology

This month’s technology focus centers on the industry push into arctic exploration and production opportunities. Like deepwater, arctic regions of the world are believed to hold enormous potential oil and gas reserves. And like deepwater, operating under arctic conditions brings its own set of technological challenges.

As you will see, this month’s issue of Offshore examines some of the solutions developed for arctic exploration. You’ll want to look at all of them because tomorrow’s headlines may well come from these frozen locations.Despite the challenges, operators are investing in arctic areas where resource estimates range into the hundreds of billion boe, says Leta K. Smith of IHS, who authored a special arctic overview this month.

The arctic is a busy place again, but there has been a shift in the locus of activity, says Smith. Before 1980, Canada’s Mackenzie Delta dominated, with 50% of the exploration wells drilled. Exploration drilling shifted to Russia, peaking in 1986 when Russian exploration wells accounted for 59% of the 78 arctic exploration wells drilled. More recently, exploration activity has shifted back toward the US and Canada.

Since 2000, 149 exploration wells have been drilled in the arctic – 57 in the US, 51 in Russia, 23 in Canada, and 18 in Norway.

Medium-sized companies and national oil companies are joining super-majors in many of the world’s technically challenging environments, Smith says.An area to watch is the US Beaufort Sea. In April, the MMS announced the preliminary award of 92 offshore tracts to six companies from the bid round held earlier in the year. The MMS estimated that the original 9.7 million acres offered could contain as much as 7 Bbbl oil and 32 tcf gas.In the Norwegian sector of the Barents Sea, Hydro (now Statoil-Hydro) recently announced the results of the Nucula prospect, which contains an estimated >300 MMbbl of recoverable oil. If subsequent appraisal deems it economic, Nucula will be the first commercial discovery in the Barents Sea since 2000.

Don’t miss Smith’s comprehensive analysis, followed by the full arctic report, beginning on page 32.DOT focus on Arctic

Not surprisingly, this month’s issue also highlights PennWell’s Deep Offshore Technology International Conference and Exhibition (DOT) to be held in Stavanger, Oct. 10-12. The theme of this year’s DOT, hosted by Statoil, is “Deepwater & Arctic – Oceans of New Opportunities.”The conference includes a full track of sessions on arctic technology, with sessions on Arctic Drilling & Production, Lessons Learned in Deepwater Operations, Riser Technology, Well Construction/Petroleum Technology, Field Architecture and Economics, Flowlines and Pipelines, Completion Design in Deepwater, Flow Assurance, Station Keeping, Seabed Boosting and Processing, Construction/Installation, Floating Facilities, Long Distance Tiebacks, and more. The special DOT Preview begins on page 64.Drilling in icy watersSpeaking of technological innovation, the potential impact of ice-loading on drilling and production facilities must be addressed if the industry is going to tap the wealth of reserves hidden in arctic regions. A group of industry professionals has proposed a concept to meet this challenge. The new design, called MonoCone Arctic platform, can withstand up to 13,000 tons (11,807 metric tons) of ice-load, a maximum wave height of 45 ft (14 m), and a 6-knot current in the warmer season.