Ice Monitoring During Arctic Petroleum Exploration

by Robert Nimmo 2017

Ice Floe Monitoring

Ice Monitoring from Hans Island in the Greenland Strait. (Dome Petroleum Photo. )

When I was a young engineer I had a placement with Canmar (the offshore subsidiary of Dome Petroleum) in a team monitoring the environment and ice conditions in the Beaufort Sea and undertaking research in the Greenland Strait. The monitoring was necessary to ensure safe conditions during drilling from the offshore structure SSDC. Monitoring was from the SSDC, on–ice drilling and shore-based environmental monitoring stations.

The Beaufort Sea contains significant resources of petroleum and natural gas under its shelf. They were discovered in the period between the 1950s and 1980s. Offshore drilling began in 1972; about 70 wells were set up by the 1980s.

Rubble Field

An ice rubble field at the base of Hans Island. This location was favourable to monitor the mechanical characteristics of multi–year ice floes from the Arctic ocean contacting Hans island in summer conditions. (Dome Petroleum Photo.)

Early Season

Artificial island (SSDC – single steel drilling caisson) in the Beaufort Sea created as a drill platform for oil and gas exploration. The SSDC was placed on the subsea berm in late summer. Sea ice would contact the sub–sea berm forming an ice island around the structure. (Dome Petroleum Photo.)

Ice Auger

Ice monitoring included ice auguring holes in the ice to measure the thickness of the sea ice. We would travel out to stations with a polar bear guard and a bear dog to ensure safe conditions. Other monitoring tools included satellite photo information, early technology in aerial shot synthetic aperture radar and tracking sensor from rig based radar. Modern techniques for monitoring ice have vastly improved the accuracy in assessment of ice coverage building off these techniques used in the 1980s. (Photo from the Rob Nimmo collection. )

Bear Monitor

Some dog breeds have potential for bear aversion. In Arctic Canada, the Inuit have used the Canadian Eskimo Dog for centuries to attack and repel bears. (Photo from the Rob Nimmo collection. )

Canmar Kigoriak

When appropriate the ice breaker Canmanr Kigoriak was called in to break ice. She was 91.06m x 17.25m x 10m. She was powered by a 17,400bhp diesel engine. She can maintain a speed of 3 knots through ice 0.91 metres (3 feet) thick moving steadily forward through the water. This photo is from a test on a multi–year ice floe.(Dome Petroleum Photo.)

The Canmar Kigoriak was an Arctic icebreaking anchor handling tugboat. In a departure from normal procedure she was designed in Vancouver but built (in 8.5 months) in 1979 at Saint John NB by Saint John Shipbuilding & Dry Dock Co. Ltd. was constructed in nine months in 1978 in response to the need for specialized ships to support the Beaufort Sea drilling. Canmar was the marine arm of Dome Petroleum. As a tug/supply vessel she was fitted for anchor–handling and deck cargo for service in the Western Arctic and Beaufort Sea. The hull includes a reamer–extruder fitted at the joint of the bow and midbody section to slice a path through the ice about 6’ wider than the width of the hull. A Paramount Cascade hull water lubricating system reduces the friction of the broken ice against the hull as it drifts past. The spoon–shaped hull is designed to direct the flow of this ice away from the nozzle of the propeller to minimize the clogging effect. Power is produced by two marine diesels through a single controlled pitch propeller contained in a double flared nozzle to produce more thrust. In 1979 she made a partial transit of the Northwest Passage westward through Lancaster Sound, Prince of Wales Strait and the Beaufort Sea

Ice Formation

In the early drill season ice built up as it grounded out on the subsea berm. This eventually developed into an ice island surrounding the drilling structure. (Dome Petroleum Photo.)

To quote from this article please cite:

Nimmo, Robert (2017) Ice Monitoring During Arctic Petroleum Exploration. 2017.


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