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The Arctic poses physical challenges including remoteness, ice, extreme temperatures and long periods of darkness in the winter. Advanced technology is needed to meet these challenges. It is also vital in protecting the region’s biodiversity, by reducing the operational footprint of discharges, air emissions and marine sound.

Preventing and responding to spills

Although oil spills in the offshore arctic are extremely rare we have well-developed plans in place to respond. We use a range of approaches and the first step is the use of multiple barriers.

A multi-layered well control system is used to ensure that if any one system or device fails it should not lead to an uncontrolled oil spill.

We use a number of early detection measures, including sophisticated sensors, and we use mechanical barriers to seal off the wells. In the unlikely event that these fail we can also drill a relief well alongside that can pump in cement or heavy mud to cut off the flow.

In Alaska, for example, we have a dedicated fleet of response vessels ready to respond within one hour of any incident. During production underwater pipelines are buried metres below the seabed to protect them from ice flows.

Reducing sound from operations

Sound from oil and gas activities can affect marine mammals. We are developing and testing advanced technologies that can help reduce noise from our offshore facilities.

Our approach includes isolating machinery vibrations from the hulls of vessels and using barriers to muffle vibrations from drilling.

We are also working on new ways to reduce sound. One is a physical bubble curtain made of plastic spheres to wrap around undersea sections of offshore installations.

To learn more about the potential impact of our operations we are testing quiet, fuel-efficient aerial drones to help monitor the movement of marine mammals. At an altitude of 450 metres (1,500 feet) the drones cannot be heard from the ground so do not disturb wildlife.