Some people think Equinor is drilling in the Arctic alongside icebergs and polar bears.
We only explore in completely open waters, and thanks to the Gulf Stream, the ice edge can be 400–500 km away. That’s as far as Oslo to Bergen. This part of the Barents Sea has been ice-free in summer for at least 50 years. Furthermore, authority regulations require us to move the rig if any ice gets closer than 50 km.
Some people think it’s dangerous and difficult drilling in the Arctic.
Drilling in the Barents Sea is little different from the rest of the Norwegian continental shelf, where we been safely exploring for oil for nearly 50 years. 130 wells have already been drilled in the Barents Sea, with no serious incidents. Even so, we upgraded our emergency preparedness significantly.
Some people think the technology isn’t good enough to explore safely so far north.
Safety is always our first priority, and the Barents Sea is no exception. We use the most modern drilling rig available, with advanced monitoring and automated drilling control. It’s equipped with the latest safety and purification systems. The rig has support 24/7 from supply and emergency vessels.
Some people think the planet cannot cope with even one more oil field.
Equinor is fully committed to the Paris Agreement, and we’re growing our offshore wind power business. At the same time, the world needs more energy than renewables can provide, and existing oil fields are dwindling. Even in the two-degree scenario, more oil is needed. That’s why we’re exploring for more fields.
Some people think Arctic oil will be unprofitable to produce, and Norway will suffer major economic losses.
Discoveries in the Barents Sea can lead to significant economic development, nationally and locally. We hope to find high quality light oil that’s in demand—and better for the climate.The wells we drill in the Barents Sea are cheaper than many others, thanks to the geology and shallower waters.
What are the conditions actually like in the Barents Sea?
How much ice is there where we plan to drill? How likely are icebergs? And where exactly is the much-debated ice edge? We asked our expert on Arctic ice and meteorology, Kenneth Johannessen Eik, to explain.
We have sufficient high quality data sources on the physical conditions in the southeast Barents Sea to carry out sound and thorough assessments prior to drilling exploration wells.
Ten reasons why it’s safe to explore the Barents Sea
- Technically, this operation is no different from the rest of the Norwegian continental shelf, where we have carried out exploration drilling for nearly 50 years. 130 wells have already been drilled in the Barents Sea
- We explore in ice-free waters during the summer months, with a mobile rig that floats like a ship. The rig is self-propelled and purpose-built for Arctic conditions—and leaves the location afterwards.
- The areas we explore have been ice-free in summer for 50 years, and there have been fewer than 10 days with ice in winter for the past 14 years.
- We constantly monitor any potential drift ice in the area using satellites and aircraft.
- We will remove the rig from the drilling site if sea ice comes closer than 50 km, in accordance with Norwegian authority requirements.
- The drilling operation is monitored by Automatic Drilling Control systems which stop the drilling and close the blowout preventer if any abnormalities arise.
- If the improbable were to happen and a spillage were to occur, booms would be deployed at once to restrict the spreading and minimise damage to any sea birds that might be in the area. Many measures have been initiated to further reduce the potential for damage, including adjusting the timeframe for the operation, changing the order in which the wells will be drilled, and monitoring seabirds from ships.
- Biodegradable chemicals are used as far as possible in modern drilling operations, which leave no traces in the environment. These chemicals are familiar to us from our everyday lives, and are used in such everyday products as cat litter, plant fertilisers and foodstuffs. Any harmful chemicals are kept in a closed system with no emissions to the sea.
- Emergency preparedness vessels and helicopters are on standby 24/7 right next to the rig for the entire operation.
- We upgraded the number of standby vessels and resources available compared with normal operations.
Discover the many safety features of our drilling rig
We’re using the most advanced exploration rig available, specially designed and winterised for operations in cold climates. It is built to the most exacting environmental standards, DNVGL’s "Clean Design" classification, and is equipped with ADC, Automatic Drilling Control.
The Songa Enabler is one of the most advanced drilling rigs available today, equipped with the very best safety and purification systems, fully-automated computer control of the drilling operations, and heated decks and superstructure. Its environmental footprint is minimal and it emits no harmful substances to the sea. Did you know that we even purify the rainwater?
The rig has been designed to withstand extreme cold, with heated decks, walkways and superstructure.
If rainwater from the deck contains more than 5 ppm of oil, it is automatically purified on board.
Any contaminated waste water is collected in tanks on board for later purification ashore.
Safety is always our top priority—here are the emergency vessels are following our rig, 24/7
Wherever we operate, we always have emergency preparedness on standby. But since parts of our Barents exploration programme will be taking place quite far from shore, we will be taking additional measures to upgrade our emergency preparedness for the duration of the exploration campaign. This involves the use of standby vessels with towing capacity, supply vessels, man overboard (MOB) rescue boats, a hospital, a NOFO oil recovery system, a search and rescue (SAR) helicopter and SAR camera, as well as a helipad on the rig.
A cooperation agreement has been entered with Eni for additional ad hoc emergency preparedness, while all operators on the Norwegian continental shelf are contractually committed through NOROG to assist each other with available capacity should an emergency arise. This means that other rigs operating in the Barents Sea at the same time as Equinor could be mobilised if necessary.
The following resources are deployed during the exploration campaign:
Standby vessel Havila Troll
Havila Troll will accompany the rig through the entire exploration campaign equipped with the following facilities:
- A NOFO oil recovery system permanently on board and a daughter vessel that can tow the oil boom for the first 12 hours
- Hospital, sick bay, telemedicinal equipment
- A large MOB boat and additional MOB boats
- A towing capacity of 110 tonnes, water cannon and cameras for day and night surveillance
- 350 m2 cargo deck
Supply vessel Troms Arcturus
It is planned to use a supply vessel to supply “Songa Enabler” at all the wells. Troms Arcturus has been selected as a supply vessel for the entire exploration campaign as it has NOFO/standby class.
At Korpfjell, two vessels must be in attendance due to long distances and oil spill preparedness requirements.