A large part of the earth’s remaining offshore oil and gas reserves are found in environmentally sensitive areas where (extraction) operations and discharges to the environment can have negative consequences for the ecosystem. The offshore oil and gas industry needs to adapt to this reality, and develop new more prudent ways of working.

On the Norwegian Continental Shelf, oil and gas operations often take place in areas with cold water corals, deep sea sponge aggregations or spawning grounds for sand eel and other benthic resources. In order to minimize the risk of negative impacts from operations in these sensitive areas, monitoring of discharges and of the vulnerable environmental resources is required.

Two systems providing decision support in this new risk reality are under development. The first is a system for real time integration, analysis and visualization of multi sensor environmental data, operational data and modeled data. This system is applicable for oil and gas operations in general, but the initial focus has been on drilling operations in sensitive areas.

The second is a system for real time modeling and risk assessment of drilling operations. This includes combining state-of-the-art models for hydrodynamic and discharge modeling. The model output will be combined and fed into risk assessment computations.

The two systems combined will support decision making in order to minimize risk of negative effects on vulnerable resources during oil and gas operations.

Analysis, visualization of real-time data from different data sources and modeling in real time enables the operator to continuously assess the potential impact to the environment and to control the operation such that the risk to the environment is minimized.

To support different roles and to optimize the decision making process different graphical user interfaces are made available, presenting data in different contexts and at different aggregation levels. For example geographic representation and plotting of time series have proven to be particularly useful.

For companies operating in environmentally sensitive areas, these systems represent decision making tools, enabling them to better plan and manage their operations.

Intelligently integrated into daily operations this represents a large step towards Integrated Environmental Monitoring, which key industry players consider to be a pre requisite to obtaining license to operate in new unexplored sensitive areas.

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