The Arctic is estimated to contain one-fifth of the undiscovered oil and gas resources in the world. Therefore it has the potential to be a major contributor to the world energy supply for decades to come. That is the reason many of the major oil and gas companies have been involved in exploration activities in the Arctic. However the Arctic is a unique environment often distinguished by the presence of ice and its general remoteness.
The Chukchi Sea is a southern extension of the Arctic Ocean bordered in the west by the East Siberian Sea and in the east by Alaska and the Beaufort Sea (Figure 1). It has a mean water depth of 50 meters and sea ice dominates the marine operating environment for at least eight months from November to early July on average.
Statoil established a strong exploration portfolio in the Chukchi Sea since 2008 taking into consideration that operating in the Chukchi Sea involves managing a high number of risks. These risks include operating in a highly sensitive environment and extreme weather conditions. Also the limited infrastructure that can support exploration and drilling activities represent a challenge to operations, especially those related to emergency response.
Statoil completed seismic, shallow hazard and geotechnical coring surveys in the Chukchi Sea in 2010 and 2011. The company developed a robust HSE management system and emergency response plans to minimize the risks and to ensure that emergencies can be handled in the most effective way.
The emergency response plans started with a detailed risk assessment to identify all possible risks and their probabilities and consequences. Close collaboration with the Emergency Response group in the Houston office was established to compensate for the small size organization in Anchorage.
All operations were conducted successfully without any serious HSE incident. All relevant stakeholders including the native communities, federal agencies and the NGOs praised Statoil for the safe and efficient operations.