Ice Management

The Hibernia platform is uniquely designed to resist the impact of sea ice and icebergs. It can withstand the impact of a one-million tonne iceberg with no damage. It can withstand contact with a six million tonne iceberg, estimated to be the largest that can drift into that water depth and only expected once in 10,000 years, with repairable damage.

Because the Hibernia platform is located in relatively shallow water - just 80 metres deep - the odds of a large iceberg ever hitting the platform are extremely low. And those odds are lessened considerably by Hibernia's aggressive Ice Management Strategy, a combination of science, technology, teamwork and old-fashioned seafaring skill. Information about approaching icebergs is gathered through a variety of means:

  • the International Ice Patrol of the US Coast Guard and the Canadian Ice Service of Environment Canada both provide airborne surveillance briefings;

  • data is gathered by satellite and radar technology, as well as Hibernia's own state-of-the-art platform radar system, which can identify approaching icebergs up to 18 nautical miles away;

  • helicopters use radio signals to precisely pinpoint an iceberg's position;

  • platform support vessels are equipped with technology that allows them to collect ocean current information as they steam toward the iceberg and transmit it back to St. John's via satellite;

  • using side scan sonar, the vessels will go alongside the iceberg and record a detailed profile to measure its draught.

Services provided by Provincial Airlines of St. John's includes the following:
Weather forecasting
Ice management
Physical and environmental data management

Data collected is entered into Provincial Airlines' ice management trajectory modeling program. Using complex mathematical modeling systems, combining wind and wave elements of the weather forecast with the physical and environmental information gathered in the field, they can predict iceberg movement and identify those which may drift close to the production area.

Icebergs that require intervention are tackled proactively while they are still 20 km or more away from the platform. The platform support vessels encircle the iceberg with a long cable or rope - much like a giant lasso - and tow the iceberg into a different trajectory. It is not necessary to tow the iceberg very far, as even a slight nudge to an iceberg at that distance will change its course considerably over a 20 km drift.

Close encounters with icebergs could, however, force the platform to stop production and actual contact may require repairs afterward. As well, any bottom-scouring iceberg could potentially cause damage to the platform's Offshore Loading System (OLS), a network of oil transmission pipelines on the ocean floor. For this reason, the OLS pipeline has been encased in concrete for additional protection. A redundant OLS system is in place to serve as an auxiliary, in the unlikely event that the other system is damaged.

Hibernia's approach to ice management then is two-fold. Firstly, state-of-the-art technology is being deployed to prevent iceberg collision. Secondly, both the platform and the OLS are designed to withstand such a collision - if it should ever happen - with an overriding emphasis on safety and the environment.

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