Discovery Magazine

Photo Credit: Deanna Wheeler

Shell Offshore Drilling in the Arctic

Florida Institute of Technology (FIT) will participate in environmental monitoring during the 2012 and 2013 Chukchi Sea oil drilling program being carried out by Shell Oil to evaluate the fate and effects of discharges during drilling operations.

The well sites will be visited before, during and after drilling. Monitoring of Chukchi Sea oil drilling will be conducted in three phases, as follows: (1) Pre-drill sampling and analysis to establish site-specific baseline physical, chemical and biological conditions of sediment and biological communities, (2) During-drilling monitoring to delineate the lateral and vertical extent of plumes in the seawater as they dissipate in the water column, and as the nature of the discharges change when the well is drilled deeper over time and (3) post-drill sampling and analysis to establish the residual impacts on sediment and biological communities. Monitoring of Chukchi Sea oil drilling builds on prior baseline data obtained by FIT and colleagues during the 2008-2011 Chukchi Sea Environmental Studies Program (CSESP) surveys funded jointly by ConocoPhillips, Shell and Statoil. Also considered will be, other historic data on the chemistry and biology of the northeast Chukchi Sea, as well as data that becomes available from the ongoing BOEM COMIDA-Chemistry and Benthos program in which FIT plays a key role.

The research team for this study of Chukchi Sea oil drilling is led by the firm Olgoonik-Fairweather and includes a team of highly experienced, knowledgeable personnel, including members from Olgoonik Corporation, Fairweather Science LLC, Battelle, Aldrich Offshore Services (AOS), and the University of Alaska Fairbanks, Florida Institute of Technology, SAExploration and other subcontractors. The FIT group specializes in studying metals that may be introduced into the environment during human activities.