The Arctic as an Industrial Environment - Some Aspects of Petroleum Development in Northern Alaska
- F.G. Larminie (BP Alaska Inc.)
- Document ID
- Society of Petroleum Engineers
- Journal of Petroleum Technology
- Publication Date
- January 1971
- Document Type
- Journal Paper
- 19 - 26
- 1971. Society of Petroleum Engineers
- 5.2.1 Phase Behavior and PVT Measurements, 4.1.5 Processing Equipment, 1.10 Drilling Equipment, 2.4.3 Sand/Solids Control, 4.3.4 Scale, 1.6 Drilling Operations, 4.2 Pipelines, Flowlines and Risers, 4.5 Offshore Facilities and Subsea Systems, 6.5.3 Waste Management
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The opportunity has never been greater for man to develop with sensitivity and understanding an area of this globe that oilers untold returns on the financial and technological investment. He can, if he will, use a great fund of accrued knowledge to build a mutually beneficial relationship between all that represents himself and the Arctic ecosystem.
International interest in the Arctic is not new and has steadily increased in this century, with a particularly marked upsurge since World War II. This interest has until recently been rather specialized and stems mainly from (1) recognition of the strategic importance of the region; (2) the development of the transpolar great circle air routes; (3) a search for shorter trade routes between major northern hemisphere population centers; (4) the scientific importance of population centers; (4) the scientific importance of the Arctic in global terms (for example, worldwide meterology); and (5) a growing interest in its natural resources. The discovery of a large oil field in Arctic Alaska in 1968 has evoked additional worldwide interest. Coincidentally this discovery has revealed that very little of what is already known of the Arctic has reached the public at large. In practical terms, however, this information is available to and is being extensively used by the oil industry, which has, in addition, its own fund of arctic knowledge based on geological studies (more or less continuous throughout this century) and geophysical surveys, as well as on drilling and associated engineering work.
As a result, when oil was discovered in large quantities at Prudhoe Bay and the emphasis was shifted from widely dispersed exploratory ventures to concentrated development, many companies already had their own personnel with Arctic experience who could, to varying degrees, apply a knowledge of the geology, the hydrology, the permafrost, the climate, the tundra -in short their practical, on-the-ground knowledge of the environment - to ensure safe, orderly, and efficient conduct of the industry's operations.
In the Arctic it is particularly true to say that good engineering and good conservation practice have a common goal. I propose here to introduce and describe briefly the milieu and next to discuss some of the practices in the Alaskan Arctic; then, as appropriate, I shall speculate on possible future developments in the region as a whole.
The Milieu of the Bear
No simple, readily recognizable and universally acceptable definition of the Arctic has yet evolved. The word itself comes from the Greek "Arktos" meaning a bear; this refers to the Great Bear, a constellation well known to navigators in northern waters. To most people the Arctic is a region lying north of the people the Arctic is a region lying north of the Arctic Circle, which is a mathematically defined line at 66 deg. 30'N, north of which the sun does not set at the summer solstice nor rise at the winter solstice. This definition is not satisfactory, and a recourse to the literature only produces a variety of other definitions based on limits of the permafrost, the tree line, behavior of the magnetic field, climatic factors, and so on.
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