By Velda Addison, Associate Editor When making plans to journey into Iceberg Alley, E&P companies willing to take the venture may want to get the most up-to-date advice or risk having a monumental glacier forcing their plans off course. In Greenland, an iceberg broke off a glacier last month, melting 97% of the island’s surface ice, Bloomberg reported. The iceberg was reportedly the size of Manhattan. That’s about 59.5 sq km, or 22.96 sq miles. The huge chunk of ice could dampen the spirits of officials with companies trying to tap into the estimated 50 Bbbl of oil and gas believed to be in the waters offshore Greenland. Companies, according to the article, with exploration plans offshore Greenland include Cairn Energy, ConocoPhillips, and Royal Dutch Shell. And the thawing of icebergs is reportedly occurring faster than it has in the past – almost twice the average witnessed in summertime, the article noted, creating the possibility of even more icebergs in the future. It stated that between 10,000 to 15,000 icebergs break off annually from 100 glaciers in the Greenland area. Most of those northern hemisphere icebergs, 85%, come from the western coast. Considering the majority of calving, or iceberg break offs, happen in the summertime – which is primetime for exploration in such waters – companies might want to consider putting more money and effort toward getting the most updated information about glaciers, icebergs, and melting of surface ice to determine risk assessment. Companies with operations in these areas usually have ice management plans. Among these is Cairn Energy, which developed a plan to avoid collisions between drilling vessels and icebergs near Greenland. The plan included use of ice management vessels to tow and deflect icebergs from certain zones near rigs. Ice movement was tracked via satellite and marine observations. That data was combined with predictive tracking based on data from the past 10 years, according to the company’s website. However, the Bloomberg article noted that oil companies may be basing such risk assessments on outdated information. “When you have a change in the number of icebergs, which we most probably have now, you’re basing your risk assessment on outdated information,” Jan-Gunnar Winther, head of the Norwegian Polar Institute, told Bloomberg. He added that it’s important for companies to update their knowledge of iceberg formation and movements to better prepare themselves. Techniques commonly used to move icebergs or prevent them from impacting drilling activities involve towing or reducing their size with a high-pressure hose. Icebergs range in size. In offshore Newfoundland and Labrador, for example, icebergs range from several million tons to less than 1% of that amount and are in varying shapes, according to the website icebergfinder.com. “The largest Northern Hemisphere iceberg on record was encountered near Baffin Island in 1882. It was 13 km (8 miles) long, 6 km (4 miles) wide and had a freeboard (height above water) of about 20 m (66 ft),” according to the site. “The mass of that iceberg was in excess of 9 billion tons -- enough water for everyone in the world to drink a liter a day for over four years.” Icebergs from Antarctica could be even larger. Now, imagine a ’berg as big as that or the one believed to be the size of Manhattan anywhere near drilling operations. Deflecting an iceberg of that size may be impractical and dangerous to say the least. Contact the author, Velda Addison, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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