Studies have suggested that the Arctic contains over 30% of the world's untapped natural gas reserves, and approximately 13% of its undiscovered oil reserves. The Beaufort shelf in the Canadian Arctic has been of interest for Oil and Gas development for many decades and reached a peak in the Mid 1980's when over 50 drilling islands were built to explore potential reserves by various international oil companies, with 92 wells recorded in the Canadian Beaufort Sea area.
The Amauligak field was discovered in the Canadian Beaufort in 1984, and is still the largest oil and gas discovery in the Mackenzie Delta or Beaufort Sea areas. Amauligak lies approximately 75 kilometres northwest of Tuktoyaktuk in 30 metres water depth in the Beaufort Sea. The field is thought to contain 235 million barrels of oil and 1.3 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.
Whilst vast resources such as Amauligak are known to exist in the Canadian Beaufort, the key to development of these remote areas is finding a viable export route for oil and natural gas. This was clearly the case for the development of the Prudhoe Bay Area of the Alaskan Arctic with the development of the Trans Alaskan Pipeline in the 1970's following the discovery of oil on Alaska's North Slope in 1968. This facilitated the development of the North Slope and shallow water offshore fields such as North Star which peaked in 1988 at about 738 million barrels per annum, about 25% of total U.S. production.
Unlike the offshore shallow water Prudhoe Bay Developments, the development of the Beaufort shelf and slope will bring with it significant remoteness and geohazard issues as well as the familiar ice challenges. This paper highlights some of the geohazard issues facing Canadian Beaufort developments and considers what options exist for the safe and economical export of the product to market.