A steady, northward move by the Petroleum industry will present new challenges for transport and rescue capacity in the Barents Sea that features big distances and little infrastructure.
The far North has been defined as a main priority for the PSA in 2014. Now that the petroleum industry is moving ever further to the North, PSA investigates the challenges facing the industry.
PSA’s High North expert Sigurd Robert Jacobsen explains the significance of these conditions for the transport and rescue capacity.
“Our biggest concerns with the big distances in the Barents Sea are getting helicopters safely out to the furthermost platforms and having a good rescue solution if a helicopter must make an emergency landing in the sea,” says Sigurd Robert Jacobsen.
Jacobsen added: “Some of the blocks which could now be put on offer are relatively long way from land. In the worst case, the maximum distance in the south-eastern Barents Sea is 260 nautical miles. That’s basically beyond the range of our existing helicopters without refueling on the way.”
Although the options are limited, Jacobsen offers several solutions for this issue, “One is to add more fuel tanks to our existing helicopters, but that naturally increases their weight and cuts the passenger payload. The other is to land en route to refuel. That requires a helideck which doesn’t move too much, and is very difficult with a vessel. While it might perhaps be cheaper to have a ship stationed up there and land on it, the most sensible solution will probably be another rig located along the route. This can then drill on one of the blocks which lies midway between land and any rigs working in the most distant area, while also serving as a refueling station.”
“Another challenge related to the big distances in the far north is the lack of infrastructure there. Resources along the route would be limited if a helicopter got into trouble and had to make an emergency landing.”
Jacobsen concludes that, in any case, collaboration is the best answer in this situation.
“The operators must join forces in drawing up plans to drill one after another and to conduct activities simultaneously. Rigs can then be present more or less midway when others are drilling furthest out. That will permit intermediate refueling at all times, and prevent us ending up with rigs located all alone at the most distant points from land.”