They outlined several promising technologies for recovery, but most were only
effective if they are deployed within 6-8 hours of a spill.
(regarding SINTEF oil recovery in ice and water)
Beaufort Sea Project Reprints - Crude Oil in Cold Water
“It is early October in the Beaufort Sea. The drilling season ends in September but this year
the ungainly drillship is still anchored offshore. The unthinkable has happened: the wellhead
casing has broken loose. Oil and gas are belching from an eroding cavity at the sea bottom; effort
to check the erupting well have thus failed.
The radar operator aboard the attending icebreaker alerts the on-scene commander: ‘Pack ice
is moving in’… until the pack recedes the following summer – the moving sea ice will determine
the fate of the escaping oil.”
This book introduces the natural process by which petroleum is formed, where the main
reserves are and the new frontiers of human exploration to search for additional reserves.
It describes the “first oil boom” in the Beaufort Sea, where bowhead whales, were taken to a
point of near extinction by the commercial whalers, due to their enormous oil production per
This volume describes in detail the major factors such as topography, currents, climate,
ice formation and the uncertainty of the ever changing weather regime that the people exploring
for oil will have to face upon an eventual blowout.
The major concern to authorities, the companies and public is a blowout during the
exploratory drilling phase. “It is still possible that if a sea-bottom oil well will ran
wild in the latter part of the short summer’s work season and did not plug itself, and the
drilling of a relief well could not be completed until the following summer”. No one knows
what the flow rate might be: perhaps 2,000 bbls a day or 10,000 bbls a day for a year or
even two years before being stopped.
The southern Beaufort Sea is a huge estuary where the Mackenzie River meets with the Arctic
Ocean. Oil spilled in this estuary would be moved by the flows of these intermixing waters in
the summer. In the winter, it would drift with the sea ice. The purpose of this book is to
trace the drift of oil flowing unchecked from an imaginary offshore blowout through the seasons
of the year. No mathematical models of the oils spill trajectories will be developed.
Mathematical representations of sea, wind and ice interactions in the Beaufort Sea lie
beyond the present abilities.
Much of the text is devoted to the oceanography of the Beaufort Sea and features such
as sediments, storm surges and sea ice. Diagrams near the end of the book show the possible
spread of the oil from a blowout for the spring, summer and winter. These predictions show
where and when the oil is most likely to appear but do not forecast its actual drift; this
cannot be done with any more accuracy than next summer’s weather can be foretold.
The message is implicit: if an oil well blowout did occur on the continental shelf of
the Beaufort Sea, the paths the spilled oil might take, its eventual fate, and possible
effect on marine wildlife, are to large degree unknown and unpredictable.
Crude Oil in Cold Water - The Beaufort Sea and the Search for Oil (reprint)
Reproduced with the permission of Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada, 2010.
by Allen R. Milne, Richard H. Herlinveaux
Edited by R.J. Childerhose
Line drawings by Joey Morgan
119 pages (PDF format - 99 MB)