NOAA official outlines Arctic offshore drilling lessons needs

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and other federal agencies worked hard in the 18 months leading up to the 2012 Arctic offshore drilling season and came away with important lessons when it ended and a better idea of its future needs, a NOAA official told a US Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Subcommittee on Oct. 11.

In written testimony, Laura K. Furgione, acting director of NOAA’s National Weather Service, said NOAA realized more than ever that it’s necessary to consider the variability of the rapidly changing Arctic and shifting historical baseline when making decisions; to appropriately weigh oil and gas development impacts on Alaska, especially North Slope and Native communities; and to increase existing collaboration and communication to improve efficiency and integrated science-based decision-making.

“Federal investments are needed as we plan for energy companies to move from exploratory activities into what is anticipated to be high-volume production over the coming days,” she told the committee’s Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries and Coast Guard Subcommittee at an Anchorage field hearing.

Officials need to use enhanced environmental observations to better understand how the rapidly changing Arctic environment can withstand industrial pressures, Furgione suggested.

“We need more access to research platforms and ship time that will improve our knowledge and understanding of the increasing dynamic Arctic environment,” she said, adding, “We need to improve our understanding of how oil and potential spill response methods, such as dispersants, will behave and affect Arctic species.”

AIWG’s contribution

The Alaska Interagency Working Group, which US President Barack Obama established in July 2011 to coordinate federal oil and gas decision-making in Alaska, already has had positive impacts, according to its chairman, Deputy US Interior Secretary David J. Hayes.

“It has consistently helped to facilitate coordination and collaboration between agencies as they considered requests by Shell [Offshore Co.] related to [its] proposed exploratory and drilling activities in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas,” he said in his written testimony.

Hayes said AIWG also provide a forum where Alaska natives, cities and towns, and other stakeholders could express concerns and offer ideas. “This feedback helped agencies develop the specific conditions for program approvals—for example, a measure included in the approval of Shell’s Chukchi Sea exploration plan designed to mitigate an end-of-season oil spill by requiring Shell to leave sufficient time to implement cap and containment operations as well as a significant cleanup before the onset of sea ice in the event of a loss in well control,” he said.

Regulators’ experience organizing, testing, and deploying emergency response equipment, vessels and personnel to prepare for the past summer’s Arctic offshore drilling activities will serve them well, Hayes said. “We also expect that this summer’s activities will yield important information about weather and sea ice conditions, coastal and ocean currents, [and] biological data, as well as sea floor mapping,” he said.

Obama has asked AIWG to report by yearend on progress establishing a centralized scientific information hub to inform decision-makers and the public, and development of a framework to build a more integrated approach to evaluate potential infrastructure development in the Alaskan Arctic, Hayes told the subcommittee.

Delays in 2012

Peter E. Slaiby, vice-president of Shell Alaska, said it took years before it began drilling its Chukchi Sea leases on Sept. 9. Slow melting of multiyear sea ice near its leases and storm-caused delays getting its fleet to Alaska shortened the drilling season and led Shell to drill top holes in its Alaska Arctic offshore leases, he said in his written testimony.

“For 2013, our approved exploration plan allows for a similar fleet and personnel deployment [to 2012] so that we can drill wells and make hydrocarbon discoveries,” Slaiby said. “The lessons learned from 2012’s complex logistics fleet and personnel deployment are significant. Shell is incorporating these lessons into our even more robust 2013 plans.”

Regulatory improvements still need to be made, he continued. Slaiby recommended that federal energy and infrastructure permitting be handled by a single office; federal agencies be fully resourced, staff, and deliver information in a timely manner; and requirements be based on science and not change “in the middle of the game” without some compelling reason. Congress should also improve the federal litigation system so project opponents can’t abuse it, he added.

ANS Borough Chief Administrative Office Jacob Adams, meanwhile, warned that while development of ANS oil resources on state land economically benefited native and other communities there, that won’t necessarily be the case for Alaska Arctic offshore areas which are federally controlled.

“I see this as one of the greatest challenges facing the people of the North Slope,” he said in his written testimony. “It seems difficult for the federal government to justify why the people of Alaska are not entitled to the same economic benefits as the residents of the Gulf Coast states…. Congress should act to ensure that royalty revenue received from [Alaska Arctic Outer Continental Shelf] developed is shared with local communities to help mitigate the negative impacts of development.”

Edith Vorderstrasse, consulting division manager for the Ukpeagvik Inupiat Corp., and Rear Adm. Thomas P. Ostebo, commander of the US Coast Guard’s 17th District, also testified. A number of Alaska environmental groups issued statements protesting their representatives not being called as witnesses.

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

Related Articles

Statoil reduces capital budget by $2 billion following 4Q losses

02/06/2015 Statoil ASA has reduced its organic capital expenditure to $18 billion in 2015 from $20 billion in 2014. The move comes on the heels of a fourth qu...

Chinese regulators approve Sinopec’s plan for grassroots refinery

02/06/2015 China’s National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) has approved Sinopec Beijing Yanshan Petrochemical Co. Ltd., a subsidiary of China Nation...

BOEM schedules public meetings about draft proposed 5-year OCS plan

02/06/2015 The US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management will hold the first of 20 public meetings in Washington on Feb. 9 to receive public comments on potential ...

Union strike ongoing at US refineries as negotiations continue

02/06/2015 A strike by union workers at nine US refining and petrochemical production plants remains under way as the United Steelworkers Union (USW) continue...

NCOC lets $1.8-billion pipeline contract for Kashagan field

02/06/2015 North Caspian Operating Co. (NCOC) has let a $1.8-billion engineering and construction contract to ERSAI Caspian Contractor LLC, a subsidiary of Sa...

AOPL releases 2015 safety performance and strategic planning report

02/06/2015 The Association of Oil Pipe Lines is committed to further improvements despite a 99.99% safe petroleum liquids delivery rate, AOPL Pres. and Chief ...

MARKET WATCH: NYMEX oil price bounces back up somewhat

02/06/2015 Crude oil prices on the New York market bounced up $2/bbl to settle slightly above $50/bbl Feb. 5. The positive momentum continued during early Jan...

Congressional Republicans renew bid to halt sue-and-settle maneuvers

02/05/2015 Calling it an affront to regulatory accountability that results in unchecked compliance burdens, US Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) and US Rep. D...

Oil-price collapse may aggravate producing nations’ other problems

02/05/2015 The recent global crude-oil price plunge could be aggravating underlying problems in Mexico, Colombia, and other Western Hemisphere producing natio...
White Papers

Pipeline Integrity: Best Practices to Prevent, Detect, and Mitigate Commodity Releases

Commodity releases can have catastrophic consequences, so ensuring pipeline integrity is crucial for p...
Sponsored by

AVEVA’s Digital Asset Approach - Defining a new era of collaboration in capital projects and asset operations

There is constant, intensive change in the capital projects and asset life cycle management. New chall...
Sponsored by

Transforming the Oil and Gas Industry with EPPM

With budgets in the billions, timelines spanning years, and life cycles extending over decades, oil an...
Sponsored by

Asset Decommissioning in Oil & Gas: Transforming Business

Asset intensive organizations like Oil and Gas have their own industry specific challenges when it com...
Sponsored by

Squeezing the Green: How to Cut Petroleum Downstream Costs and Optimize Processing Efficiencies with Enterprise Project Portfolio Management Solutions

As the downstream petroleum industry grapples with change in every sector and at every level, includin...
Sponsored by

7 Steps to Improve Oil & Gas Asset Decommissioning

Global competition and volatile markets are creating a challenging business climate for project based ...
Sponsored by

The impact of aging infrastructure in process manufacturing industries

Process manufacturing companies in the oil and gas, utilities, chemicals and natural resource industri...
Sponsored by

What is System Level Thermo-Fluid Analysis?

This paper will explain some of the fundamentals of System Level Thermo-Fluid Analysis and demonstrate...
Available Webcasts


The Alternative Fuel Movement: Four Need-to-Know Excise Tax Complexities

When Thu, Jun 4, 2015

Discussion on how to approach, and ultimately embrace, the alternative fuel market by pulling back the veil on excise tax complexities. Taxes may be an aggravating part of daily operations, but their accuracy is crucial in your path towards business success.

register:WEBCAST



On Demand

Prevention, Detection and Mitigation of pipeline leaks in the modern world

Thu, Apr 30, 2015

Preventing, detecting and mitigating leaks or commodity releases from pipelines are a top priority for all pipeline companies. This presentation will look at various aspects related to preventing, detecting and mitigating pipeline commodity releases from a generic and conceptual point of view, while at the same time look at the variety of offerings available from Schneider Electric to meet some of the requirements associated with pipeline integrity management. 

register:WEBCAST


Global LNG: Adjusting to New Realities

Fri, Mar 20, 2015

Oil & Gas Journal’s March 20, 2015, webcast will look at how global LNG trade will be affected over the next 12-24 months by falling crude oil prices and changing patterns and pressures of demand. Will US LNG production play a role in balancing markets? Or will it add to a growing global oversupply of LNG for markets remote from easier natural gas supply? Will new buyers with marginal credit, smaller requirements, or great need for flexibility begin to look attractive to suppliers? How will high-cost, mega-projects in Australia respond to new construction cost trends?

register:WEBCAST


US Midstream at a Crossroads

Fri, Mar 6, 2015

Oil & Gas Journal’s Mar. 6, 2015, webcast will focus on US midstream companies at an inflection point in their development in response to more than 6 years shale oil and gas production growth. Major infrastructure—gas plants, gathering systems, and takeaway pipelines—have been built. Major fractionation hubs have expanded. Given the radically changed pricing environment since mid-2014, where do processors go from here? What is the fate of large projects caught in mid-development? How to producers and processors cooperate to ensure a sustainable and profitable future? This event will serve to set the discussion table for the annual GPA Convention in San Antonio, Apr. 13-16, 2015.

This event is sponsored by Leidos Engineering.

register:WEBCAST


Emerson Micro Motion Videos

Careers at TOTAL

Careers at TOTAL - Videos

More than 600 job openings are now online, watch videos and learn more!

 

Click Here to Watch

Other Oil & Gas Industry Jobs

Search More Job Listings >>
Stay Connected