Jack-up drilling units have been used in Arctic open water seasons and areaswith icebergs. They have not been used in areas where significant sea ice canmove in with high concentrations. These areas have typically been drilled usinga floating mobile offshore drilling unit (MODU) although the water depths aretypically less than 50 meters. Floating MODUs in shallow water depths can havesignificant downtime due to the limited offset in shallow water and typicallyrequire placing the well control equipment in a seabed cellar. In these areas, jack-ups can improve both operational safety and efficiency as they havelimited weather related downtime.

Several studies were carried out to determine the feasibility of using amodern high capacity jack-up MODUs for exploratory drilling in these areas. This paper will review the studies including structural analysis, icemanagement approaches, and well control considerations. It will also review thefurther potential of jack-ups in the Arctic.

Studies showed that using a jack-up drilling unit is feasible in shallowArctic seas such as the Chukchi Sea when coupled with an effective icemanagement system. The jack-up unit has sufficient ice resistance to withstandinteraction with thin early winter ice. Specific designs of jack-ups arecapable of taking impact forces from thicker ice floes that may occur during anice incursion event during the open water season. The maximum floe size duringan ice incursion is limited and controlled by the associated icemanagement system.

An ice management system was developed using a combination of satelliteimagery, ice management vessels, and ice alert procedures. This system wasdetermined as effective in managing ice to allow the jack-up to operate in theChukchi Sea area.

Environmental and personnel safety is enhanced by the use of aPre-positioned Capping Device, an in place source control device. The device isindependent from the rig's well control system and provides another level ofprotection in additional to the jack-up's BOP.

The conclusion, based on structural and ice management studies, is thatmodern high capacity jack-up drilling units can be an effective way to drillwells during the open water season in shallow waters of Arctic seas includingareas in to which sea ice can move. The studies also show that there ispotential for use in other areas.

This content is only available via PDF.
You can access this article if you purchase or spend a download.