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Remote Sensing Imagery Improves Safety and Logistics of Arctic Operations

Many forms of remote sensing imagery can be used, along with data sets and the resultant products, to improve the efficiency and safety of upstream oil and gas operations on the North Slope of Alaska, which is characterized by limited road access, seasonally restrictive operations, and stringent environmental regulations. This paper discusses how optical satellite and aerial imagery, high-resolution light detection and ranging (LiDAR) for digital elevation and digital surface models, and synthetic aperture radar (SAR) have enabled one operator to undertake detailed logistical planning of field operations in the Alaskan Arctic by gaining a better understanding of the landscape, environment, and overall regional investigations.

Introduction

Significant growth in remote sensing systems and techniques has enabled advanced desktop studies and technical investigations, particularly in remote areas such as the Alaskan Arctic. Arctic regions are, by nature, highly inaccessible and consequently problematic to investigate for the purposes of logistical planning of field operations. The North Slope, covering approximately 100,000 acres of northern Alaska and bounded on the north coast by the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas, exemplifies these qualities. Less than 1% of this region is covered by gravel road systems. North Slope oil fields are concentrated in a very small portion of this area. Extensive regulation governs both ground and air access to protect and preserve the environment and wildlife in the region, and to respect the cultural resources and Inupiat lifestyle of the 10,000 residents spread among eight villages.

Meandering and braided fluvial systems and stationary waterbodies vary seasonally in size, volume, and state. The environment has been sculpted by significant fluvial systems that drain from the Brooks Range into the Beaufort Sea. High-energy river drainages with steep-cut banks and expansive gravel bars leave abandoned channels and oxbows across the dynamic landscape. The tundra is marked by numerous waterbodies with a wide range of depths. Small ponds and lakes often have the most significant depth profiles. Light or deep snow levels; thin, thick, or grounded ice conditions on lakes; and overflow conditions on the rivers can plague preparation and execution of North Slope winter operations.

This article, written by JPT Technology Editor Judy Feder, contains highlights of paper OTC 29115, “Application of Remote Sensing Imagery and Ancillary Products to Improve Safety and Logistical Efficiency of Arctic Operations,” by Tiffany Carey and Khalid Soofi, SPE, ConocoPhillips, prepared for the 2018 Arctic Technology Conference, Houston, 5–7. Copyright 2018 Offshore Technology Conference. Reproduced by permission.
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Remote Sensing Imagery Improves Safety and Logistics of Arctic Operations

01 January 2020

Volume: 72 | Issue: 1

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