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They outlined several promising technologies for recovery, but most were only effective if they are deployed within 6-8 hours of a spill.

T. Scheick
(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 animal.

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)
by Allen R. Milne, Richard H. Herlinveaux
Edited by R.J. Childerhose
Line drawings by Joey Morgan

Reproduced with the permission of Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada, 2010.
119 pages (PDF format - 99 MB)

Beaufort Sea Project Reprints
Birds and Marine Mammals
Crude Oil in Cold Water
Fishes, Invertebrates and Marine Plants
Oil, Ice and Climate Change
Oil Spill Countermeasures
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