Abstract

An area of concern for any offshore oil development beyond the "transition zone", the zone where multi-year ice and land- fast ice meet, is Escape, Evacuation and Rescue (EER). Due to the unique environmental conditions, e.g., large ice ridges, conventional evacuation methods such as lifeboats may not be sufficient. The unique environmental challenges in the Alaskan OCS and their potential impact on EER will be described. A feasibility assessment focused on the secondary evacuation component of EER will also be described. This assessment consisted of establishing performance standards related to the expected operating environment, identification of proven and novel evacuation methods, evaluation of these methods versus the performance standards, and prioritization of future work. Finally, recently-conduted data collection and analysis and technology maturation studies related to EER will be discussed.

INTRODUCTION

Shell's objective in Alaska is to find and develop commercial hydrocarbon resources in the Chukchi and Beaufort Outer Continental Shelf. As with all Shell ventures, the company maintains high operational and social performance standards that will bring, with exploration success, economic expansion and new opportunities to communities across Alaska and the Northwest. Since returning to Alaska in 2005 Shell has embarked on an extensive field data acquisition, R&D and technology maturation effort aimed at supporting exploration and future development. This paper focuses on development of a robust Escape, Evacuation, and Rescue (EER) solution for the Alaska OCS operating environment.

The oil industry has operated successfully in Arctic and sub-Arctic locations since the 1960s. However, as the industry pursues offshore developments in the Arctic with more severe environmental conditions, it must develop new solutions and/or extend existing ones to meet these new challenges. One of the key technology challenges is development of a robust Escape, Evacuation, and Rescue (EER) solution for offshore developments in the "shear zone", where land-fast ice interacts with the mobile polar ice pack. Solutions for less severe mobile first year regions, such as Cook Inlet, offshore Newfoundland, offshore Sakhalin Island, and the northern Caspian Sea, have been developed using modified open water equipment and techniques and purpose-built craft.

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