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Oil spills in cold climates with special reference to the transportation and exploration of hydrocarbons in the Kara Sea

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Berg, Jon Trygve 


Oil spilled in ice infested waters have frequently been under investigation through the last twenty years. This has been induced by the prospects of large oil reserves offshore both in the American and Russian Arctic. Two oil spill scenarios considering the oil exploration in the Kara Sea have been developed. In this work the fate and behaviour of the oil in ice, environmental conditions in the Kara Sea and the present and past exploration of the region has been summarised. Oil spilled under ice will be encapsulated within the growing ice field for then to be released, without a change in properties, the following season. The movement of the oil will be determined by the motion of the ice. The amount of oil which is contained by the ice and its spreading is determined by the under ice morphology. Oil spilled in open ice will be contained by the ice only to be released when the ice breaks up and melts. No large scale mechanical clean up technology has been developed. Burning might be feasible of newly surfaced or oil contained in leads between floes. However the logistics of such operations will be very expensive and probably not economically feasible. Chemical dispersion might be enhanced due to the thickness of the layer of oil in the broken ice. However, emulsions forms very quickly which decreases the efficiency of the dispersants radically. The scenarios revealed the possibility of spilled oil to be transported out of the Kara Sea and into either the Barents Sea of the polar basin. Possibly to be released into the Barents Sea in the following summer as fresh crude or in the waters surrounding Svalbard after one or two seasons as weathered crude. ·This emphasises the need for international coordination of the drilling activities in the Kara Sea with respect to possible environmental disasters.






Master of Philosophy (MPhil)

Awarding Institution

University of Cambridge
Digitisation of this thesis was sponsored by Arcadia Fund, a charitable fund of Lisbet Rausing and Peter Baldwin.