Following the opening of the Norwegian Continental Shelf and the Barents Sea, the southeast region of the Barents Sea too will open for petroleum activity - for which a risk assessment is needed. The Norwegian Petroleum Safety Authority hires Ramboll to study the risks to petroleum operations within the recently opened southeast Barents Sea. According to Ramboll, drilling in this region holds more challenges than the other areas that opened within Norwegian waters.
The southeast Barents Sea is a region of 44 000 square kilometres. The region is partly within Norway’s northern territorial waters, although it is for the most part within Russia’s territorial waters. Following a Norwegian treaty with Russian about maritime delimitation and collaboration in the Barents Sea and the Arctic Ocean, which came into effect in 2011, the southeast Barents Sea became available for petroleum activity for the first time in 20 years.
Concerns about the safety of oil exploitation in the region have been voiced by a number of stakeholders. In a bid to determine the safety risks of drilling within Norwegian territorial waters, the Norwegian Petroleum Safety Authority (NPSA) was formed in 2004. The NPSA is an independent, governmental supervisory body, responsible for audits and, in cooperation with other health, safety and environmental (HSE) regulators, to ensure that the petroleum industry and related activities are supervised in a coherent manner.
The NPSA has tasked Ramboll with studying the situation in the southeast Barents Sea, with regard to suitability, challenges, uncertainties, risks, and risk reduction measure for oil exploitation units operating in the region. The study involves obtaining, systematising and analysing empirical data, from which recommend actions with regard to petroleum activities can be derived.
The study, in more detail, explores the potential risks of different type of drilling rigs within the region, including drilling rigs, drilling rigs with ships' hulls and possibly jack-up drilling rigs – within an area in which icebergs are still a risk to integrity of drilling and well control equipment at the sea level. In addition, the study draws on information from global regions in relation to how challenges have been managed in other parts of the world.
Dag Nilsen, Director Business Development at Ramboll, remarks that “This region may hold more challenges than what the industry and authorities have seen in the newly opened areas of the Norwegian Continental Shelf (NCS) and the Barents Sea. Therefore there is a need to look at the suitability, challenges, uncertainties, risks, and risk reduction measures for offshore units destined to operate in this new region.”