USA: Offshore platforms can survive sea ice demands, research shows

The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE), in partnership with the University of Alaska, recently completed a research study that examined the ability of current offshore structural designs to survive sea ice demands under extreme Arctic conditions.

The agency explained that the objective of the study, “Reliability-Based Sea Ice Parameters for Design of Offshore Structures,” was to produce information that would supplement current standards and recommendations such as ISO 19906 Standard: Petroleum and Natural Gas Industries – Arctic Offshore Structures, to provide additional sea ice information for the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas.

Over a two-year period, researchers gathered data from 16 seasons of ice measurements from the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas. This data provided sufficient comparisons of various sea ice parameters, such as first and last ice occurrence, level of ice, rubble fields, ridges and ice movement. After a full analysis, the research team was able to analyze a range of annual values to develop averages and draw conclusions, said the agency.

The BSEE noted that the study identified critical keel depth and provided an assessment of the suitability of the current ISO 19906 recommendations for estimating global ice forces on offshore structures. Following the collection of additional data, analysis and thorough review of recorded events, the researchers concluded that it appears the current standard of practice cited in ISO 19906 is conservative for current structural design parameters and is capable of surviving the demands from sea ice, the BSEE said.

There are currently seven studies ongoing that assess offshore engineering technology and conditions operators face in harsh Arctic conditions and, according to the bureau, all of these efforts assist BSEE in understanding how conditions in the Arctic could impact future regulatory standards.

The agency added that the sea ice study would be presented when the Bureau hosts representatives from regulatory authorities of six Arctic nations next week in the Main Interior Building in Washington, D.C. as part of a meeting of the Arctic Offshore Regulators Forum (AORF).

The AORF, which addresses a specific recommendation of the Arctic Council’s Task Force on Arctic Marine Oil Pollution Prevention, is an Arctic forum of technical and operational offshore petroleum safety regulators dedicated to improving offshore safety outcomes.

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