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Monday, October 14, 2019

Beaufort Sea News

Sea ice along the east coast of Banks Island in the western Canadian Arctic. Photo credit: UVic researcher William Halliday, a co-author of the new study led by UVic marine biologist Lauren McWhinnie.

Study Calls to Reduce Ship Speed for Arctic

In the Arctic, marine mammals such as belugas and bowhead whales rely on a quiet environment to communicate and forage. But as Arctic sea ice shrinks and shipping traffic increases, vessel disturbance could very likely impact their social behaviours, distribution and long-term survival, warns a new study led by University of Victoria marine biologist Lauren McWhinnie. Published in the peer-reviewed journal Ocean and Coastal Management, the study calls for precautionary measures…

Photo Credit: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

Hundreds of Scientists Urge Obama to Halt Arctic Oil Drilling

Nearly 400 scientists from more than a dozen countries signed a letter urging U.S. President Barack Obama to take the Arctic Ocean out of the next federal offshore lease sale plan, thus ruling out the possibility of offshore drilling in the Arctic in the near future. Scientists from 13 countries have signed the letter saying global warming will be accelerated by burning oil found in the Arctic Ocean. “No new oil and gas leasing or exploration should be allowed in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas in the foreseeable future,” the scientists said.

A May 21, 2016 satellite view of the Beaufort Sea off the coast of Alaska and Canada shows highly fragmented sea ice. Source: LANCE System/NASA/GSFC via National Snow and Ice Data Center

Arctic Sea Ice Sheds Weight in May

Arctic sea ice hit a record low in May 2016 as scientists discovered the first-ever link between melting ice in Greenland and a phenomenon known to warm the area faster than the rest of the Northern Hemisphere. According to the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) in Boulder, Colorado, sea ice extent across the Arctic was 4.63 million square miles, which was an astonishing 224,000 square miles below the previous record low for the month of May, set in 2004. Data published…

Point Thomson reservoir holds an estimated 8 trillion cubic feet of natural gas and 200 million barrels of natural gas condensate, a high quality hydrocarbon similar to kerosene or diesel Courtesy ExxonMobil

ExxonMobil Starts Production at Point Thomson

ExxonMobil said today it has started production at its Point Thomson project, the first company-operated project on Alaska’s North Slope. Central pad facilities are designed to initially produce about 5,000 barrels per day of condensate and 100 million standard cubic feet per day of recycled gas. The recycled gas is re-injected for future recovery. At full rate production, the facility is designed to produce up to 10,000 barrels per day of natural gas condensate and 200 million cubic feet of recycled gas. It is anticipated to reach that level when the west pad well is online in a few months.

Photo: Inhabitat

Arctic Ice 'Too Thick' for Shipping Route

Sea ice in the Arctic is still too thick for Northwest Passage commercial shipping route in spite of warming temperatures. This is according to new research from York University. Despite climate change, Arctic sea ice remains too thick and treacherous, says the study, “Ice Thickness in the Northwest Passage,” published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters on September 25, 2015. Scientists with York University carried out electromagnetic ice thickness surveys during April and May in 2011 and 2015 to measure the thickness of sea ice over the Northwest Passage — “a system of gulfs…

Beaufort Sea. Photo: NOAA

Exxon, BP Defer Canadian Arctic Drilling

As Imperial Oil, as senior partner in the northern venture with ExxonMobil and BP, told Canada’s National Energy Board (NEB) that the exploration program has been deferred, the plan to revive arctic gas and oil drilling in deep Canadian waters of the Beaufort Sea ground to a halt. The slow pace of regulatory review has left too little time to finish the approval process and does the work before the group's drilling leases expire, Imperial said in a filing at the board. The partners – Calgary-based Imperial…

Arctic Ocean experiencing acidification. Photo: NOAA

Arctic Ocean Acidification May Corrode Animals' Shells

Arctic Ocean is facing a dilemma today and that is acidification. Ocean acidification is a result or a chemical reaction which happens when seawater absorbs too much carbon dioxide from the atmosphere—reducing its acidity, carbon ion concentration and saturation. The Arctic marine species stand endangered amidst the alarming rise in ocean acidification. A new research by the NOAA's Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory claims the disastrous effects of the drastically rising acidity levels of Arctic Ocean on the marine species.

A map of northern Alaska; the dotted line shows the southern boundary of the North Slope. Courtesy Wikipedia

ExxonMobil Resumes Drilling at Point Thomson

ExxonMobil announced today that it has resumed drilling at Point Thomson on Alaska’s North Slope as construction continues toward bringing the initial production system online. “The Point Thomson field is a vital part of unlocking Alaska’s North Slope gas resources,” said Jim Flood, ExxonMobil Development Company’s arctic vice president. The initial production system is designed to produce up to 10,000 barrels per day of natural gas condensate and is scheduled for startup in 2016.

Subsea Cable Project: Tokyo to London via NW Passage

Arctic Fibre Inc plans to construct a 15,167 km (9,424 mile) subsea fibre optic cable; North Alaska Slope residents to benefit. Arctic Fibre announce that it will partner with Anchorage-based Quintillion Networks, LLC to provide broadband telecommunications services to more than 26,500 Alaska residents living along the Alaskan North Slope and Bering Sea coastline, and to provide a geographically diverse alternate fibre route for traffic from the United States to Europe and Asia.

'Kulluck' Aground: Photo credit USCG

Shell's 'Kulluk' Rig Accident: WWF Canada Urge Better Planning

A close call for the 'Kulluk': better planning needed before more oil and gas traffic in Arctic waters comments WWF Canada. The Kulluk, a conical, Arctic-class drill ship, was being towed from the Beaufort Sea in Alaskan Arctic waters back to Seattle following Shell’s first drilling season in the region. Its tow vessel lost control of the massive platform during a harsh winter storm, resulting in the ship, carrying over 136,000 gallons of diesel fuel and 10,000 gallons of lubes and oils, to be grounded on Sitkalidak Island, a pristine island near two salmon streams and ocean bay estuary.

Shell's First Arctic Drill Attempt Suffers a Hiccup

A drill-bit from 'Noble Discoverer' touched sea floor in the US Chukchi Sea, but drilling soon had to cease as sea ice began to encroach. As a precautionary measure and in accordance with our approved Chukchi Sea Ice Management Plan, Shell has made the decision to temporarily move off the Burger-A well to avoid potentially encroaching sea ice. Once the ice moves on, the Noble Discoverer will re-connect to anchors and continue drilling. Shell uses a combination of satellite images, radar and on-site reconnaissance to monitor ice movement.

Arctic Voyage Underway for Both Shell Drillships

In the last week, both of Shell’s drill ships departed Unalaska for the Arctic. The Noble Discoverer drill rig, which made headlines when it dragged anchor and almost came aground on Airport Beach in June, is bound for the Chukchi Sea. The Kulluk drill ship is now halfway to the Beaufort Sea. But the drilling season is already almost over, with only a month left to drill in the Chukchi, and two months left in the Beaufort, and for that reason Shell is asking the government for more time.

Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) Director Jim Watson.

BSEE's Watson to Visit AK Offshore Site

Director Watson Visits Arctic Drilling Rigs for First-Hand Look at Safety Equipment, Meets with Alaska Native Community Leaders, Shell Officials; Today holding media conference call to discuss visit and BSEE inspection and oversight activities. As part of the Obama Administration’s commitment to safe and responsible offshore energy exploration and development, Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) Director Jim Watson today visited the two drilling rigs that Shell has proposed using for exploration activities in the arctic this summer.

“I think it important to remind everyone that the place is ice-covered – fully or partially – eight to 10 months out of the year through the century and beyond," Said Lawson W. Brigham, PhD, Distinguished Professor, Geography and Arctic Policy, University of Alaska – Fairbanks.

Arctic Route Helps Owners Slash Fuel Costs

The debate regarding working in and around the Arctic is multi-tiered, with environmental, technical and emergency response heading the list. There is no debate regarding the fuel, money and emissions to be saved by shortening select global shipping routes. In a report from Bloomberg news posted June 13 on http://www.businessweek.com, it was said there will be a rise in dry bulk cargos hauled through Arctic waters this season, a journey that can halve shipping time compared to some Suez Canal shipments, and simultaneously reduce fuel consumption, costs and emissions.

The Nanuq was outfitted with oil-spill-response capabilities well before the 2010 Macondo spill in the Gulf, he noted. The Aiviq is designed to work in tandem with the Nanuq. (Photo Courtesy Shell)

Arctic Oil Exploration: Shell Awaits New Giant Icebreaker

The M/V Aiviq icebreaker, contracted by Shell Oil to support drilling in Alaska’s Chukchi Sea, is scheduled to be completed by Louisiana-based Edison Chouest Offshore in early 2012. The vessel, ordered in July 2009, is on track for April 1, 2012, delivery in Galliano, La., and will then head north, according to Shell Oil spokesman Curtis Smith. The $200m Aiviq is the largest vessel ever built by Chouest, and will be among the most advanced and powerful, non-military icebreakers on the waters.

Canada Announces Arctic Offshore Drilling Rules

The National Energy Board (NEB or the Board) released filing requirements today for future applications to drill in the Canadian Arctic Offshore. The Filing Requirements, a companion document to The Past is Always Present, Review of Offshore Drilling in the Canadian Arctic, Preparing for the Future, follows several months of extensive consultation carried out across the North during the NEB’s Arctic Review. During the Arctic Review, many Northern residents stated that if drilling is to be authorized in the unique Arctic environment, it must be done right.

RAL, Ausenco Sandwell Team for CG Bid

One of Canada’s most storied naval architecture firms, Robert Allan Ltd., and Canada’s leading arctic and offshore engineering firm, Ausenco Sandwell, formed a joint venture -— Canada’s Arctic SAGE Team -— to bid for the design of  the Canadian Coast Guard’s new flagship icebreaker. “Canada’s Arctic SAGE Team brings together the most experienced, skilled and talented team in the world on ice breaker technology,” says Robert Allan Ltd.’s Executive Chairman, Rob Allan. Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced the new icebreaker project in August of 2008. The ship, to be named CCGS John G.

Navy Completes Arctic Environmental Assessment

WASHINGTON (NNS) -- The Navy released an Arctic environmental assessment and outlook Aug. 15 that will be instrumental in developing future strategic plans and investments in a region that is becoming increasingly accessible to exploration and commercial enterprise. "In the past the Arctic was largely inaccessible, but increased seasonal melting of the sea ice is opening the region and creating opportunities for oil and gas exploration, maritime shipping, commercial fishing, and tourism," said Rear Adm. David Titley, director of the Navy's Task Force Climate Change.

Revised OCS Oil & Gas Leasing Program

The Department of the Interior’s Minerals Management Service (MMS) published a Federal Register notice requesting comments on the Preliminary Revised 2007-2012 Five-Year Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) Oil and Gas Leasing Program for lease sales covering the 2007-2012 timeframe. The comment period will be open through May 3, 2010. The Preliminary Revised Program was required by order from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia in Center for Biological Diversity v. U.S. Dept. of Interior, D.C.

U.S., Canadian Coast Guard Oil Spill Exercise

Representatives from the U.S. and Canadian Coast Guards, Arctic region stakeholders and established responders are scheduled to hold a joint “Canada - United States North” (CANUSNORTH) tabletop exercise March 16 and 17 at the Captain Cook Hotel in Anchorage. This biennial exercise provides an opportunity for all responders to work together to consult on local issues and improve communications and coordination for potential responses to pollution incidents in the contiguous waters of the Arctic Ocean and Beaufort Sea.

State Seeks Intervention in Drilling Case

Governor Sean Parnell has directed the Department of Law to ask the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals for permission to intervene in the lawsuit by environmental groups challenging the U.S. Interior Department’s decision to approve an oil exploration plan for the Chukchi Sea. “OCS exploration and development will increase jobs and revenue for Alaskans and for all Americans,” Governor Parnell said. The state previously was granted intervention in a separate case brought by many of the same plaintiffs against an exploration plan for the Beaufort Sea.

Alaska Gov Touts Offshore Oil Lease Ruling

According to an August 28 report from The Wall Street Journal, Alaska Governor Sean Parnell on August 28 praised a federal appeals court decision that he said will allow Royal Dutch Shell (RDSA) to continue exploring for oil and gas in the Beaufort Sea. (Source: The Wall Street Journal)