Arctic Drilling Operations

J Tate

Abstract


Another surge in arctic exploration is set to begin, and unlike the 80s and 90s exploration of the shallow Beaufort Sea, operations will move to water depths far beyond the capability of bottom founded drilling platforms. The solution will be the development of newer and more capable floating drilling platforms. Their design will have to reflect the challenges of the depths and the unique environmental forces found in the arctic, ice forces in particular.

There are several platform and position control options available, each with the own positive and negative attributes. One of the more promising alternatives is dynamically positioned (DP) drill platforms. A successful platform design will have to take into account both hull and DP controller performance in heavy ice environments. Meeting these requirements is not just complicated by the increased forces and moments, but also by the intermittent nature of ice loadings.

Initial vessels designed to meet these rigid requirements have begun to appear in industry, such as Stenas Drillmax Ice, but none have been put to the test in the arctic. A successful platform will have to be tested eventually at great financial and environmental risk.

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