Arctic environments present formidable barriers to hydrocarbon development. The Centre for Arctic Resource Development (CARD) served as focal point for planning, coordinating and conducting research to fill gaps in the knowledge, technology, methodology, and training needed to remove these barriers. The Centre focused its efforts on key barriers identified by the broader research community and various sectors of the oil and gas industry. Its research programs were organized into core areas of Ice Mechanics, Ice Management, and Station-Keeping in Ice, and were related through the common activities of Floating System Modelling and Large-Scale Experiments.

The physical environment in northern regions presents unique challenges which increase the complexity and cost of offshore oil and gas development. These conditions include:

  • low temperatures
  • sea ice (including extreme ice features up to 30 m thick);
  • icebergs and/or ice islands;
  • ice scour of the seabed;
  • permafrost and icing;
  • seabed hazards, including gas hydrates and shallow gas;
  • winter darkness (particularly in high latitudes);
  • weak soil and seabed conditions; and
  • considerations of water depths greater than 100 m.

Despite the many challenges posed by such harsh environmental conditions, industry has developed feasible solutions for production from fields in marginal sea ice and iceberg zones such as the Grand Banks, as well as capabilities to safely conduct exploratory drilling in areas such as the Beaufort Sea. Hydrocarbon development becomes significantly more challenging farther north, however, and step changes in knowledge, methodology, and technology are required to enable safe, economic offshore developments in these regions.

Research and development has a vital role to play in helping fill gaps in knowledge and understanding, technology and methodology, and required training, all of which must be addressed to overcome these development challenges.