A day in iceberg alley

Posted by tracy — 24 August 2010 at 2:53pm - Comments

The standoff with the Danish navy continues in the Arctic today. They're guarding Cairn Energy's oil drilling operations in the Davis Straits which the company revealed today has found gas.

The day has also revealed what a hazardous area this is for drilling and the crew of the Esperanza got to see why locals call the area iceberg alley.

The oil drilling rigs are accompanied by a number of tug boats that must rope and tug icebergs away from the rigs if they get too close. The fire ships were also using hoses against smaller icebergs today and limit the number of icebergs near the drilling sites.

But ‘ice management' techniques used in the area are ineffective against the largest icebergs. In extreme cases rigs themselves might have to be moved to prevent catastrophic collisions.

The risk of icebergs has increased in recent years because several of Greenland's largest glaciers have begun to disintegrate as a result of climate change. An ice island four times the size of Manhattan recently broke off from the Petermann Glacier and will eventually make its way south through Nares Strait into Baffin Bay. Some of these icebergs are likely to be too big to be towed out of the way, meaning the rigs themselves will have to be moved at very short notice.

Trudy Wohlleben, who works for the Canadian Ice Service and discovered the giant chunk of the Petermann glacier that recently broke off, said "The danger is - once they get to where the oil platforms are - if the icebergs are too big then the normal methods used to break up the ice as it approaches the platform will have a lot more difficulties."

Cairn Energy admits that the Arctic poses extreme challenges, and that ‘logistics are complex'. The prevalence of icebergs has deterred other oil companies from attempting exploration here in recent years, but the world's oil giants are watching the Cairn project with great interest. If they are successful this would spark an Arctic oil rush threatening this fragile environment and our chances of beating climate change. 

We are campaigning to establish an immediate moratorium on industrial exploitation in the vulnerable Arctic ocean, including oil drilling, and we want to see a permanent, equitable and overarching multilateral agreement that protects the Arctic ocean environment and ecosystems and the peoples who depend on them, along the same lines as the Antarctic Treaty protects Antarctica.

It is one of the major controversies in life to find people in Greenland, who are living so extremely under the laws of the nature and its wonderfull conditions are against a green movement and a number of mayor oil consumers in the development countries are for Greenpeace.

There is only way to stop global warming: You stop using a toothbrush made and with oil, a bed made and transported with oil, your sneakers made of oil, rubberstrips made from oil, foreign trips on oil, car parts, etc.

Hi,

I note that Cairn Energy's "CSR" policy specifically states that they will avoid World Heritage Sites.

Is there potential danger to Ilulissat Icefjord (a listed site), which I think is also on the west coast, from Cairn's drilling?

SPB

tracy is for sure writing a good story about what is going on in the waters off Greenland, no doubt about that.
What bothers me is, that for some reason the facts have slipped away - or maybee just hidden behind all the fancy words.

You are right tracy, the amount of icebergs might have increased and thereby the risk for icebergs in the area where the drilling operations take place.
And yes, there might be an iceberg which is too big to be "managed" by the support vessels.
But then, what is the speed of an iceberg ?
1 knot, maybee 2 knots.
As the icebergs are beeing monitored continously at a great distance, this speed gives the management on board the rig lots of time to take the desicion to make the rig ready and depart the site.
And again, how fast do you think the rig can be underway and away from the danger ?
5 minutes - I think it can be done in the same amount of time needed by the Esperanza to heave up the anchor and get away from a threatening iceberg.

There is a thing which makes "ice management" difficult, something completely different, something not mentioned by tracy.
And tracy, I am pretty sure you do not know what it is.
That is a fact... :o)

And, by the way, no hoses are beeing used to throw water on the icebergs. Just take a look at the pictures! :o)

I would really like a comment from tracy on this, but that might too much of a wish.

It's hard to believe that you are anchored since the depht is around 500m.

You could think of it as the Arctic fighting back I suppose; although, as has been mentioned before, I do think that the time it takes for the Iceberg to be noticed by monitoring equpiment, travel towards the drilling site and make it's way towards a rig; the rig will be long gone.

However, I can see your point; in that it is a dangerous place to be at all, nevermind do a bit of deep-water drilling in.

keep up the good work.

Have Greenpeace ships pigs who are fed in the cages, cage hoes, young calves, commercial salmon, commersial heering in their freezer? Have Greenpeace a policy against the discarding of animal residues remaining?
In Greenland folks eat a large degree only adult animals who have lived all's there life out there in the beautiful nature. Up to 75% energy supply from hydroelectric plants in Greenland(if one takes hydropower plants under konstrution now). The remaining shall be provided with excess energy from the hydropower plants utilities backwards made into hydrogen.

Hi CHS,

I'm not sure how long it takes to move a rig, but the Esperanza certainly can't start up and move in 5 minutes. To go from a cold engine, start-up typically takes an hour. It can be done in an emergency in a much shorter time frame, but not 5 minutes. We're talking more like half an hour to actually get underway.

I'm guessing that a rig, to go from actively drilling, to being underway, would take longer. But if there are any experts out there please jump in.

And take another look at these pictures, they clearly show water hoses being used against the smaller icebergs. The medium size ones are roped and towed.
http://www.flickr.com/photos/greenpeaceuk/4925789129/

And perhaps I'm being thick, or you're being too subtle, but no, I'm not sure what you're talking about that also makes ice management difficult.

Knud, you might want to check out Will's blog from yesterday, not all the locals are in favour of drilling off Greenland. 

I'm from the east coast of Canada, half my relatives are fishermen. 10 year after they built the largest ever oil rig off Newfoundland (Hibernia), the coastal towns have yet to see any benefit, and people are leaving the villages and towns in droves because fishing industries are continuing to collapse.

Please leave Newfoundland and Labrador out of your propagnda reporting.. Your protests of this provinces seal hunt has done nothing to help the fishermen you describe.. It also appears that you have not visited the Southern shore of Newfoundland in a long time, various communities continue to prosper because of direct benefits of the local oil industry.. Do not use the NL people now to pull on the heart string of your reader, to get donations. As well, the ship pictured is not using fire hoses to melt the bergy bit shown. yet using its external fire fighting system to deflect the piece off its course. but im sure saying that the ship is out further melting ice gets you a few more dollars..

Thanks for your comment Tracy

I am not an expert, but I know a few things.
The rigs, Stena Forth and Stena Don in this case, are not anchored rigs. They got their engines running 24/7 and therefore they do not need to start up any engines in case they need to get underway.
To stop the drilling operation and disconnect from the well takes time, if you got the time.
If not, ex. if a collision is imminent, you will do an Emergency Quick Disconnect - cut the drill string and disconnect the riser from the well.
- this is not a thing you want to do. You will damage the equipment and loose a lot of money. But in this way you will be able to seal the well and get away from the danger.
(We all know what happened in the GOM, but let us leave that case out of this)
An Emergency Quick Disconnect only takes minutes, and thereby the rig can be underway pretty fast.

This leads to another question then. How safe is it then for the Esperanza to be anchored in the middle of Iceberg Alley ?
I you need maybee an hour to get underway, are you then in a safe position when there is dense fog and icebergs are present in the area ?

It is one of the major controversies in life to find people in Greenland, who are living so extremely under the laws of the nature and its wonderfull conditions are against a green movement and a number of mayor oil consumers in the development countries are for Greenpeace. There is only way to stop global warming: You stop using a toothbrush made and with oil, a bed made and transported with oil, your sneakers made of oil, rubberstrips made from oil, foreign trips on oil, car parts, etc.

Hi, I note that Cairn Energy's "CSR" policy specifically states that they will avoid World Heritage Sites. Is there potential danger to Ilulissat Icefjord (a listed site), which I think is also on the west coast, from Cairn's drilling? SPB

tracy is for sure writing a good story about what is going on in the waters off Greenland, no doubt about that. What bothers me is, that for some reason the facts have slipped away - or maybee just hidden behind all the fancy words. You are right tracy, the amount of icebergs might have increased and thereby the risk for icebergs in the area where the drilling operations take place. And yes, there might be an iceberg which is too big to be "managed" by the support vessels. But then, what is the speed of an iceberg ? 1 knot, maybee 2 knots. As the icebergs are beeing monitored continously at a great distance, this speed gives the management on board the rig lots of time to take the desicion to make the rig ready and depart the site. And again, how fast do you think the rig can be underway and away from the danger ? 5 minutes - I think it can be done in the same amount of time needed by the Esperanza to heave up the anchor and get away from a threatening iceberg. There is a thing which makes "ice management" difficult, something completely different, something not mentioned by tracy. And tracy, I am pretty sure you do not know what it is. That is a fact... :o) And, by the way, no hoses are beeing used to throw water on the icebergs. Just take a look at the pictures! :o) I would really like a comment from tracy on this, but that might too much of a wish.

It's hard to believe that you are anchored since the depht is around 500m.

You could think of it as the Arctic fighting back I suppose; although, as has been mentioned before, I do think that the time it takes for the Iceberg to be noticed by monitoring equpiment, travel towards the drilling site and make it's way towards a rig; the rig will be long gone. However, I can see your point; in that it is a dangerous place to be at all, nevermind do a bit of deep-water drilling in. keep up the good work.

Have Greenpeace ships pigs who are fed in the cages, cage hoes, young calves, commercial salmon, commersial heering in their freezer? Have Greenpeace a policy against the discarding of animal residues remaining? In Greenland folks eat a large degree only adult animals who have lived all's there life out there in the beautiful nature. Up to 75% energy supply from hydroelectric plants in Greenland(if one takes hydropower plants under konstrution now). The remaining shall be provided with excess energy from the hydropower plants utilities backwards made into hydrogen.

Hi CHS,

I'm not sure how long it takes to move a rig, but the Esperanza certainly can't start up and move in 5 minutes. To go from a cold engine, start-up typically takes an hour. It can be done in an emergency in a much shorter time frame, but not 5 minutes. We're talking more like half an hour to actually get underway.

I'm guessing that a rig, to go from actively drilling, to being underway, would take longer. But if there are any experts out there please jump in.

And take another look at these pictures, they clearly show water hoses being used against the smaller icebergs. The medium size ones are roped and towed. http://www.flickr.com/photos/greenpeaceuk/4925789129/

And perhaps I'm being thick, or you're being too subtle, but no, I'm not sure what you're talking about that also makes ice management difficult.

Knud, you might want to check out Will's blog from yesterday, not all the locals are in favour of drilling off Greenland. 

I'm from the east coast of Canada, half my relatives are fishermen. 10 year after they built the largest ever oil rig off Newfoundland (Hibernia), the coastal towns have yet to see any benefit, and people are leaving the villages and towns in droves because fishing industries are continuing to collapse.

Please leave Newfoundland and Labrador out of your propagnda reporting.. Your protests of this provinces seal hunt has done nothing to help the fishermen you describe.. It also appears that you have not visited the Southern shore of Newfoundland in a long time, various communities continue to prosper because of direct benefits of the local oil industry.. Do not use the NL people now to pull on the heart string of your reader, to get donations. As well, the ship pictured is not using fire hoses to melt the bergy bit shown. yet using its external fire fighting system to deflect the piece off its course. but im sure saying that the ship is out further melting ice gets you a few more dollars..

Thanks for your comment Tracy I am not an expert, but I know a few things. The rigs, Stena Forth and Stena Don in this case, are not anchored rigs. They got their engines running 24/7 and therefore they do not need to start up any engines in case they need to get underway. To stop the drilling operation and disconnect from the well takes time, if you got the time. If not, ex. if a collision is imminent, you will do an Emergency Quick Disconnect - cut the drill string and disconnect the riser from the well. - this is not a thing you want to do. You will damage the equipment and loose a lot of money. But in this way you will be able to seal the well and get away from the danger. (We all know what happened in the GOM, but let us leave that case out of this) An Emergency Quick Disconnect only takes minutes, and thereby the rig can be underway pretty fast. This leads to another question then. How safe is it then for the Esperanza to be anchored in the middle of Iceberg Alley ? I you need maybee an hour to get underway, are you then in a safe position when there is dense fog and icebergs are present in the area ?

About Tracy

I work for Greenpeace in the UK office. Most people in the office might describe what I do as "something to do with computers". That might be followed up with "and she is not a morning person". Clearly I think it is far more interesting than that. I have been helping Greenpeace organise and deliver online campaigns for more than 10 years (I’m going to stop counting) in Canada, Brazil, India and from our international headquarters. And then I realised my carbon foot print was out of control and have settled in the UK bought a boat and a solar panel and am now trying to make amends.

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