Drilling operations in the High Arctic have proven to be very expensive. The major factor is the cost of transporting men, rig and supplies into this remote area of Canada. Other contributing factors are weather problems and communication difficulties.
Before commencing a High Arctic drilling venture, very detailed pre-planning is necessary in order to design a rig and accessory equipment that will operate and move efficiently in this hostile environment. Since transportation is a major cost item, the logistics of moving rig and supplies, together with the proper timing of all support operations, becomes important to the success of the drilling venture.
Drilling in Canada's Northeastern High Arctic commenced in March 1971 with the spudding of the Fosheim well on Elle smere Island by Panarctic Oils Ltd_ The 1972 sealift witnessed two additional rigs, both of which were unloaded across Eureka Sound on Axel Heiberg Island.
The Canadian Arctic Islands comprise sedimentary basins of vast areal extent which are potentially hydrocarbon bearing. However, the geographical location of these Islands provides some very unique and extremely difficult problems in operations and logistics.
Axel Heiberg Island, situated some 2000 air miles North of Edmonton, lies between 78 ° and 82 ° North Latitude, and as such lies only 600 miles from the North Pole. This island's rugged beauty is climaxed by an ice-cap covering the entire central portion of the island with jagged mountain peaks reaching to 8, 000 feet elevation. The coastal regions contain sparse areas of gras s and mas s that, amazingly, support caribou, musk-ox, rabbits and lemmings. Other types of animal life able to exist in this delicate balance include the Arctic wolf and fox.
Man is frequently being humbled by the extremely harsh Arctic climate. Weather is a main factor to be considered in all Arctic operations. The drilling rig, camp and support equipment must be designed to withstand extreme cold and high winds. Wind chill factors in excess of −50 ° F. are not uncommon, requiring men to be equipped with the best winter clothing available. ven after these precautions a severe storm will completely ripple operations.
Winds of 30 m. p. h will quickly drift in roads and airstrips. Tripping of drill pipe becomes hazardous and practically impossible in winds greater than 50 m. p. h. During several winter storms at Depot Point, steady winds of 60 m. p. h., with gusts to 100 m. p. h., were Recorded. These winds. occurring with temperatures of −41 ° to −45 ° F, create an indescribable chill factor.
Should a drilling rig suffer power failure or tarp damage during a storm, the rig would freeze up within minutes. The only recourse in such an event would be to close the preventers immediately and wait for the storm. to subside.
Sea transportation as far North as the weather station at Eureka, Ellesmere Island, has been accomplished each summer since 1969.