Offshore Work Under Extreme Conditions Research
University of Stavanger (UiS) is active in teaching, research and finding solutions for developing fields in areas with Arctic conditions.
The northward shift of Norway’s oil industry means it must adjust to temperatures down to -30°C, storms, sleet and snow, and drift ice. And to the blackest night.
“Try to imagine changing a tyre in freezing weather, snow and darkness,” says professor Tore Markeset , a specialist in cold climate technology at the University of Stavanger (UiS). That is his way of visualising the challenges facing oil companies seeking to produce oil and gas from the far north of the Norwegian continental shelf (NCS).
Weather, winter darkness, vast distances, and safety and emergency response challenges for petroleum facilities in the Barents Sea will all be more extreme than in the North Sea. “Compared with our expertise from the southern NCS, we know little about how to run an offshore production installation in a cold climate,” adds professor Ove Tobias Gudmestad at the UiS. Hence the need for more research.
Among the issues he and Gudmestad work on is winterisation – in other words, tailoring equipment and workplaces so that they can operate normally in a harsh winter climate. They say that much could be different in the far north, including the need for special steels and equipment when temperatures fall low enough.
Plastics, rubber, metals and lubricants are examples of materials which change their properties under extreme cold, and which must be adapted to the Arctic environment. Electrical systems, sensors, cables, valves, motors and pumps must all be specially manufactured. Piping, tanks and pumps containing liquids which could freeze have to be kept warm even if the installation shuts down to avoid being burst by frozen fluids. An increased need to heat equipment and facilities and to provide lighting will boost energy consumption on installations – from heating cables in corridors and on helidecks, for instance.