The world runs on oil, and oil companies are seeking new oil-rich areas to help satisfy the never-ending need daily. The Arctic has recently emerged as the newest region to be explored. Newer technologies have expanded the possibilities considerably, especially in conjunction with measurement while drilling (MWD) technology, which can be used stateside or in the Arctic. MWD training will enable drill pilots to conduct real-time measurement of conditions surrounding the drill pipe screen that will help determine accurate positioning of downhole equipment. MWD systems within the drill string sense and transmit data regarding the temperature, direction, angle and type of tool face required for the most advantageous drilling.
With increased demand for oil from China and India, it has become imperative that the Arctic and its seas need to be explored for their potentially huge oil resources. In 2009, the U.S. Geological Survey reported that the Arctic could have up to 30 percent of the world’s undiscovered natural gas reserves and nearly 15 percent of its undiscovered oil. That adds up to some 160 billion barrels of oil, which is over 70 billion more than had been previously estimated.
The Arctic has been described as one of the most promising regions for oil. In tandem with the MWD technical support available to enrich the drilling’s productivity, it seems likely that the frigid Arctic fields could yield enough oil and natural gas to supply the needs of the United States and the burgeoning Asian markets. MWD kits will aid in the drilling process by directing drill pilots toward the richest areas to seek oil.
Although most deep ocean basins do not have a high potential for gathering petroleum, the Arctic is still an area where both oil and gas are there for the taking. The majority of the reserves are estimated to be beneath less than 500 meters of water. That is only one-third of a mile deep. With a worldwide demand of 30 billion barrels per year, the potential Arctic yield is enormous, which is why the largest oil companies on earth are jostling for their slice of the pie.
The main obstacle to these vast oil reserves is the possible negative environmental impact. Since the catastrophic spill in the Gulf of Mexico, green campaigners have lobbied long and hard against oil drilling in such pristine waters as the Arctic, especially since only 20 percent of its area is accessible during the winter. Greenpeace claims that an Arctic oil spill would be difficult to stop.
Drilling would have to be carried out only during certain times of the year according to Wood Mackenzie oil analyst Nick Gellatly. He cites the rising temperatures in the area as a warning rather than an opportunity. Drilling could also release toxins like mercury, arsenic and lead into the ocean says the Natural Resources Defense Council. It is seeking ironclad rules for countries trying to obtain or allowing oil drilling within their territorial waters.
The Oil Spill Response Challenges in Arctic Waters report says that the frigid environment enhances the chance for a spill and impedes the possibility of a fast cleanup if one were to occur. The contributing factors to a delayed spill response would be the extreme cold, high winds, low visibility and a lack of natural light. However, the extenuating circumstances have not dissuaded some of the biggest oil companies in the world from pursuing the possible riches. Shell Oil recently abandoned its efforts after squandering some $7 billion in what it described as a “disappointing” effort to drill for oil in the Arctic.