The Western and South Western Barents Sea is the offshore area south ofBjørnøya and east towards the newly agreed delineation boundary between Norwayand Russia while limited by the Norwegian mainland to the south.
In this area, the Snøhvit gas field is in production and the Goliat oilfield is being developed. Recently, encouraging oil finds (Skrugard and Havsul)have increased the interests in the geology and the oil and gas potential ofthe area. The older seismic (acquired more than 30 years ago) of the formerdisputed area between Russia and Norway shows potential for large hydrocarbonfinds, although there would be a possibility that the hydrocarbons might haveleaked out from the prospects.
This paper summarizes the large challenges for the marine constructioncontractors working in these areas and discusses various phenomena that affectthe marine operations at extreme cold climate conditions:
Long fetch length towards the west causes long periodic waves, necessitating vessels with good motion characteristics outside the range of awide wave spectrum. Of particular importance is drilling rigs and drill shipsthat can work effectively in long periodic waves.
The normal wind and wave conditions during the summer construction seasonis as for the Norwegian Sea, however, during fall and winter, the weather canbe extremely challenging. Of particular concern is the unpredictability of theweather caused by suddenly occurring polar lows, a phenomena caused by outburstof low air pressures from the ice edge to the north. The polar lows combinedwith low temperatures can cause vessel icing and loss of vessel stability forconstruction vessels with deck equipment having high centre of gravity.
Furthermore, long distances and weak infrastructure lead to logisticschallenges as well as challenges related to evacuation and emergency response, in particular for activities outside the main construction season. It must alsobe noted that ice could be encountered early in the construction season, although very rarely, and that ice monitoring is important should activitiesstart as early as March and April.
The marine construction contractor will have to show patience when workingin the area. Joint efforts, improved knowledge, top standard equipment and goodunderstanding of the roles of the contractor and the oil company should, however, ensure successful project execution, also in this cold climateregion.