Oil Spill Technology Research Continues for Arctic Exploration

The JIP will conduct Phase 2 experiments at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers-Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory in Hanover, N.H. to evaluate the performance of various surface and subsea remote sensing technologies.

The JIP also has initiated research into developing a new sea model that will be tested, evaluated and validated. These results will be integrated into established oil spill trajectory models. Additionally, research is being initiated to improve knowledge of herder fate, effects and performance in ice-prone waters.

JIP members include BP plc, Chevron Corp., ConocoPhillips, Eni S.p.A., Exxon Mobil Corp., North Caspian Operating Company (NCOC), Royal Dutch Shell plc, Statoil ASA, and Total ASA.

The 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill refocused the attention of the global oil and gas industry and governments worldwide on oil spill technology and policies. Oil and gas companies are currently researching new technologies to detect leaks and address oil spills. Efforts of this recent research were presented at the Arctic Technology Conference.

INTECSEA and Worley Parsons, in their review of fiber optic cable distributed sensing systems, have found them to be potentially effective and a viable solution for Arctic and sub-Arctic pipeline leak detection. Fiber optic cable systems could provide extremely accurate leak detection capabilities not currently available.

Pipelines are designed not to leak. However, leaks could occur on Arctic pipelines due to the excessive strains of ice gouging, strudel scour, frost heave and permafrost thaw settlement and other loading and failure mechanisms. Failure to detect leaks in a timely manner could have severe safety, environmental and economic impacts, and while large leaks can easily be detected, small chronic leaks could go undetected for a length time, particularly on pipelines buried in remote locations or under seasonal ice cover.

Temperature differential and acoustic signatures around a leak are altered, allowing fiber optic cable systems to sense the change and transport the signal onshore or to a facility, according to INTECSEA and WorleyParsons researchers. Arctic developments will benefit through the deployment of a system with precise leak detection capabilities on a buried subsea pipeline.


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