Exploration in the Beaufort required technological development and has resulted in commercial discover1es. The physical environment of the Beaufort has shaped the exploration systems and will influence the design of development systems.
Development will follow from the successful exploration methods, and will be dependent on the establishment of a transportation system. Feasible transportation modes are the pipeline and icebreaking tanker. both of which may find applications. Technical challenges exist in the establishment of both modes.
The paper describes some of the systems considered for development scenarios and discusses associated problem areas.
One of Canada's most prospective frontier areas is 100,000 square kilometers in the northwest extremity of the land consisting of the Mackenzie Delta and the Beaufort Sea. It is convenient to view this as a single area not only because it is a single sedimentary basin but al so because its remoteness from markets and its unique environment pose common problems. Its hydrocarbon potential is great, with an estimated 1.5 billion cubic meters of oil and 2 trillion cubic meters of natural gas.
The physical environment has shaped the exploration systems. The lattice towers, jackups and submersibles used for exploration elsewhere in the world lack the strength required to resist the loads of the sea ice. The remoteness of the location precludes mobilizing far the summer season and relocating during the Winter, as has been the practice off the east coast. The production and transportation systems will be similarly influenced. The low temperature prevailing for 9 months of the year affects the overall efficiency of men and machinery, as well as causing the direct problems of ice, permafrost and brittleness in steel.
A high value is placed on preservation of wildlife. The interest of the native peoples is obvious, as they derive a significant part of their livelihood from hunting. There is also a worldwide concern for the continued existence of endangered species. The preservation of habitat, as a necessary condition for survival is the root of much opposition to development projects. Real and perceived dangers to the earth and water result in exclusion areas, controlled access, challenges to right of passage and generally restrictive operating conditions. Some of these considerations will impact on oilfield development and associated transportation projects to a degree comparable to that of the physical environmental constraints.
Before any significant project can proceed it must undergo rigorous scrutiny by government bodies. Early in the clearance and approval procedure is a study of environmental impact.
At the request of the Federal Government, Esso, with Gulf and Dome, is now engaged in the preparation of an environmental impact statement for Beaufort-Delta production. The intent is to provide sufficient information so that the government may give general environmental clearance far development in the region. Any site specific development would then be required to meet the general conditions of the clearance hut would avoid the long delays inherent in the hearing process.