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Collection of links relating to drilling in the Arctic Ocean

Articles and links supplied by a former employee of Shell Oil USA.


The Arctic and Shell

What happens if Statoil is involved in major Arctic Ocean blowout?

Statoil, Shell and the Arctic Ocean


Shell Chukchi Sea Application 2010 Application for Incidental Harassment Authorization for the Non-Lethal Taking of Whales and Seals in Conjunction with Planned 2010 Exploration Drilling Program Chukchi Sea, Alaska: April 2010


I have lifted some text from the NOAA EIS that relates to the bureaucratic definitions of ‘take’ and ‘harassment’. As can be seen, they are not benign definitions. These folks talk about ‘temporary loss’ of hearing. How did they determine this with cetaceans (whales)? Do these people know what they are talking about?

NMFS Statutory and Regulatory Mandates

Under the MMPA, the taking of marine mammals without a permit or exemption from NMFS is prohibited.

“Take” under the MMPA means:

“to harass, hunt, capture, kill or collect, or attempt to harass, hunt, capture, kill or collect.”

Except with respect to certain activities not relevant here, the MMPA defines “harassment” as:

“…any act of pursuit, torment, or annoyance which (a) has the potential to injure a marine mammal or marine mammal stock in the wild [Level A harassment]; or (b) has the potential to disturb a marine mammal or marine mammal stock in the wild by causing disruption of behavioral patterns, including, but not limited to, migration, breathing, nursing, breeding, feeding, or sheltering but which does not have the potential to injure a marine mammal or marine mammal stock in the wild [Level B harassment].”

To date, NMFS’ policy has been to use the 180-decibel (dB) root-mean-squared (rms) received level for cetaceans and 190-dB rms received level for pinnipeds to indicate where temporary threshold shift (TTS, or temporary loss of portion of hearing sensitivity) of these animals from acoustic exposure begins. Since TTS does not result in a permanent loss of hearing sensitivity, and the animal is expected to fully recover from TTS after a certain period of time (see review in Southall et al., 2007), NMFS views TTS as Level B harassment. In addition, NMFS uses the 160-dB rms isopleth for cetaceans and 170-dB rms for pinnipeds to indicate where Level B behavioral harassment begins for acoustic sources, including impulse sounds, such as those used for seismic surveys. In order to obtain an exemption from the MMPA’s prohibition on taking marine mammals, a citizen of the United States who engages in a specified activity (other than commercial fishing) within a specified geographic region must obtain an incidental take
authorization (ITA) under section 101(a)(5)(A) or (D) of the MMPA. An ITA shall be granted if NMFS finds that the taking of small numbers of marine mammals of a species or stock by such citizen will have a negligible impact on the affected species or stock(s) and will not have an unmitigable adverse impact on the availability of the species or stock(s) for subsistence uses. NMFS shall also prescribe, where applicable the
permissible methods of taking and other means of affecting the least practicable impact on the species or stock and its habitat (i.e., mitigation, monitoring and reporting of such takings). ITAs may be issued as either (1) regulations and associated Letters of Authorization (LOAs) where there is a potential for serious injury or mortality; or (2) IHAs, when there is no potential for serious injury or mortality or where any such potential can be negated through required mitigation measures.

As part of the MMPA authorization process, applicants are required to provide detailed mitigation plans that outline what efforts will be taken to reduce negative impacts to marine mammals, and their availability for subsistence use, to the lowest level practicable. In addition, IHA authorizations require that operators conduct monitoring, which should be designed to result in an increased knowledge of the species and an
understanding of the level and type of takings that result from the authorized activities. Under the MMPA, NMFS further requires that monitoring be designed to provide information and data verifying (or disputing) that the taking of marine mammals are, in fact, negligible and there are no unmitigable adverse impacts on the availability of marine mammals for subsistence uses.

In making a determination of no unmitigable adverse impacts to subsistence uses of marine mammals, NMFS and MMS consider whether a Plan of Cooperation (POC) is negotiated between the affected Alaskan Native communities and the applicants………

Statoil rewrites the rulebook: Sept 2007

Statoil wants to drill off Greenland: 25 November, 2009

Forum magazine – Statoil’s clean sweep on safety

Another article on Statoil. Maybe the WWF would be interested in this and perhaps lobby for the imposition of Norwegian safety standards in the Arctic offshore! They have the ear of the White House, so why not raise the issue?

Norwegian oil company increases Alaska holdings in Chukchi Sea: 2010

Why Norway’s offshore drilling is safer: 3 May 2010

This recent Guardian article on oil rig safety issues also mentions Statoil: BP threatened with legal case over safety of all its oil rigs

Norway’s offshore oil drilling safety record: 4 May 2010

For Big Oil, the N-word is “nationalize”: 27 May 2010

The real driving force in the Norwegian oil industry for safety, the environment, etc. is the Petroleum Safety Authority. I have included a link to their web site. They have their regulations on-line. PETROLEUM SAFETY AUTHORITY NORWAY

I have attached a link to an article in off-shore technology about BP’s proposed development of the Liberty Field in Alaska. It is interesting because of the use of extreme extended reach drilling technology. The cost of building a gravel island directly above the field was prohibitive. BP didn’t even consider some sort of man-made platform.

BP slows down plans for Liberty oil field: 6 July 2010

Six lessons from the BP oil spill: 10 July 2010

Alaska Gov: Judge Clears Shell’s Offshore Seismic Oil Testing: 6 August 2010

Still on hold: Statoil’s Chukchi seismic in doubt after injunction: 8 August 2010

BP America, BPXA may be fined $500m for repeated violations: 1 April 2009

Poisoning the Well: Jan 1997

Frontier Discoverer (The Frontier Discoverer was originally built as a log carrier and was converted in 1975 to a Sonat Offshore Drilling Discoverer Class turret moored drillship.)

The Biggest Oil Spills in History
Arctic Melting and Oil: Countries Stake Claims as World Faces Environmental Disaster
Chukchi Cap
Recent blowout is one of only 18 in Alaska: 18 December 2008
Arctic Governments And Industry Still Unprepared For Oil Spills 20 Years After Exxon Valdez: 19 March 2009
Arctic Oil: A Boon For Nest Predators: 9 September 2009
Low Concentrations of Oxygen and Nutrients Slowing Biodegradation of Exxon Valdez Oil: 18 January 2010
Arctic Voyage Illuminating Ocean Optics 26 July 2010
Alaska’s Arctic Seas: Court Ruling Halts Offshore Lease Sale 27 July 2010
U.S.-Canadian mission set to map Arctic seafloor: 1 August 2010
Chukchi Sea Planning Area: Draft Environmental Impact Statement by Minerals Management Service Volume 1 (pending)
Chukchi Sea Planning Area: Draft Environmental Impact Statement by Minerals Management Service Volume 2
Undiscovered oil resources in the Federal portion of the 1002 Area of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge: an economic update: 2005-1217 Open-File Report 2005
ALASKA FEDERAL OFFSHORE: Descriptions of Geologic Plays 1995 U.S. Minerals Management Service
Last hope in the last frontier: offshore development key in Alaska.: March, 2007
Digital terrain mapping of the underside of sea ice from a small AUV: 2008

More information which might be of interest to the WWF. This data set consists of upward looking sonar draft data collected by submarines in the Arctic Ocean. It includes data from both U.S. Navy and Royal Navy submarines: Submarine Upward Looking Sonar Ice Draft Profile Data and Statistics

Update 14 August 2010

I have attached a link about the development of riser-less drilling technology. It is about 15 years old, but its use is growing rapidly. With reference to the Statoil article, Statoil has used it on 19 projects, NOT for 19 years, and it probably is not a required method of drilling in Norwegian waters, although I don’t know that for certain. If it isn’t now it probably will be in the near future. The environmental benefits are simply to great not to make it a required drilling technology.

Riserless drilling project develops critical new technology

There are some links in this article that I found amusing, but typical for the ‘oil patch’.

When I first went to work for Shell in the early 1980’s there was a popular bumper sticker in Texas that most people in the rest of the US didn’t quite understand and often found somewhat offensive. It went something like :

‘Please don’t tell my Mother that I work in the Oil Patch, she thinks I still play piano in a New Orleans ‘cat’ (whore) house.’

It always makes me laugh. But it tells you how oil field workers and the industry are often regarded by the rest of American society. The oil industry is not highly regarded. It is generally viewed as being a ‘rape, ruin and run’ industry. Like logging and coal mining. And justifiably so (e.g., Nigeria). BP’s bungling and callous disregard for operational safety hasn’t helped improve the image of the oil industry any.

Attached is a corporate news release from Statoil about them being the first to use riser-less drilling technology in the Gulf of Mexico that they have been using in the North Sea for almost 20 years. The article speaks for itself.

Environmentally friendly drilling solutions in the US

The method is clearly a cost effective drilling technology, and far more ‘environmentally friendly’. I presume the use of this technology is mandatory in the North Sea and Arctic waters of offshore Norway. And I am sure Norske Shell is well acquinted with the technology.

One wonders why the US Dept. of the Interior and MMS and Shell Oil USA, et al, are 20 years behind the Norwegians.

Someone should take a long hard look at the proposed drilling prognoses for the Statoil and Shell exploraton wells in next year’s proposed Chukchi Sea drilling program to see how each operator intends to drill their exploration wells. Any bets that Statoil’s plans are far less polluting that Shell’s.

The WWF might be interested in this. The drilling prognoses should be part of the environmental impact statement filed by each operator.

See the attached link and article. When you read the article you will note that reference is made to ‘ice scouring studies’. These are related to seabed scour by dragging sea ice (the pressure ridge issue I mentioned previously), and are obvious follow up studies to those done in the 1980’s, and perhaps later. The water depths in the locations Shell wants to drill are on the order of 30m – 50m.

Again, the WWF should be interested in these studies. They should determine whether production is, in theory, ‘possible’. These studies should also cover a multi-year period in order to obtain an idea of the variability in ice pack characteristics

Duo get greenlight for Chukchi surveys: 9 August 2010

Attached is a link to DOI’s list of EIS’s for Alaska. You might want to post this link in one of those articles. There are a host of them.

Alaska Petroleum Reserve lease sale disappoints: 11 August 2010

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