The challenges of operating in Arctic conditions, and the importance of testing

The Arctic is a region characterised by low and extremely low temperatures, with high winds, seasonal darkness, long periods of heavy fog, sea ice, icebergs, remoteness and storms that can almost reach hurricane strength. 

Temperatures as low as -50°C create significant challenges in the production of oil and gas: material properties change and uninhibited or unprotected fluids freeze. Also, climate changes can create greater variations in temperature, leading to increased snow or rain and enhanced potential for corrosion occurring.

Polar lows (small and forceful low pressure systems common in many of the Arctic regions) that can last for a couple of hours to a couple of weeks and create strong winds and severe wave conditions pose significant safety risks and difficulties.

In 2008 The United States Geological Survey (USGS) concluded that the Arctic was estimated to hold 22 per cent of the world’s remaining undiscovered, technically recoverable petroleum resources. It attributed some 13 per cent of undiscovered oil, 30 per cent of undiscovered natural gas, and 20 per cent of undiscovered natural gas liquids to the Arctic, branding it as a major potential energy province. Interest in the region was recently evidenced when the U.S. Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) approved ENI’s exploration drilling plans for the Beaufort Sea, offshore Alaska.

However, Arctic temperatures introduce a new set of engineering challenges, often requiring specialized materials and processing steps. These challenges to materials from exposure to low temperatures also extend to coating systems. 

Icing, for example, adds weight to an offshore rig or ship. The icing of safety-critical equipment may lead to production stops, while falling ice-lumps poses risks for people and equipment. Areas may have to be closed due to ice build-up and de-icing can consume both time and energy. 

In order to protect assets from frigid temperatures, Jotun uses a variety of technologies, such as our super-hydrophobic anti-ice coating, to reinforce and engineer coating systems that are resistant down to cryogenic temperatures.

And to make sure that in general Jotun’s proposed protective coating systems really are able to withstand the very worst that the region can throw at them, the company has invested in a unique on site Arctic testing station at Svalbard, just 650 miles from the North Pole.    

Establishing the world’s only arctic test station, in strong cooperation with major industrial players as well as the University of Svalbard (UNIS), means we can confidently keep to our promise of ensuring optimal corrosion protection for the most extreme, harsh environments. 

Choosing the correct coating system will extend asset life and ensure fitness for service, safety and reliability in the most extreme conditions in the world. This can reduce maintenance and shutdown time, environmental impacts and incident risks.

If you want to learn more about our Arctic solutions, please contact Kevin: kevin@jotun.com