26 April 2016
The U.S Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) has determined the designs exisint offshore platforms are strong enough to survive extreme Arctic conditions and sea ice experienced offshore northern Alaska in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas.
The determination was made following a recently completed research study by the BSEE, in partnership with the University of Alaska, that examined the ability of current offshore structural designs to successfully survive sea ice demands under extreme Arctic conditions.
The objective of the study was to produce information that will be used to supplement current standards and recommendations such as ISO 19906 Standard: Petroleum and Natural Gas Industries – Arctic Offshore Structures. The findings of the study are to support regulatory decision making and ensures that industry operations offshore incorporate the best available and safest technologies as required by the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act and Energy Policy Act.
Over a two-year period, researchers gathered data from 16 seasons of ice measurements from the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas, providing comparisons of various sea ice parameters like first and last ice occurrence, level of ice, rubble fields, ridges and ice movement. After a full analysis, the research team was then able to analyze a range of annual values to develop averages and draw conclusions from what was witnessed.
The study identified critical keel depth and provided an assessment of the suitability of the current ISO 19906 recommendations for estimating global ice forces on offshore structures. Following the collection of additional data, analysis and thorough review of recorded events, the researchers concluded that it appears the current standard of practice cited in ISO 19906 is conservative for current structural design parameters and is capable of surviving the demands from sea ice.
BSEE has a dedicated program coordinator in Alaska who assists with identifying research that advances BSEE’s regulatory objectives in the Arctic. There are currently seven studies ongoing that assess offshore engineering technology and conditions operators face in harsh Arctic conditions. All of these efforts assist BSEE in understanding how conditions in the Arctic could impact future regulatory standards.
The sea ice study will be presented when the Bureau hosts representatives from regulatory authorities of six Arctic nations next week in Washington, D.C. as part of a meeting of the Arctic Offshore Regulators Forum (AORF).
The AORF, which addresses a specific recommendation of the Arctic Council’s Task Force on Arctic Marine Oil Pollution Prevention, is an Arctic forum of technical and operational offshore petroleum safety regulators whose members are dedicated to the common cause of continually improving offshore safety outcomes. Its primary scope is the exchange of information, best practices and relevant experiences learned from regulatory efforts related to developing petroleum resources in the Arctic.