Final results and conclusions!

3.12 Current oil spill recovery systems for oil in ice

A study done in Canada by Look North named ‘Oil Spill Detection and Modelling in Hudson and Davis Straits’ (2014) summarizes how in most oil spill models available, sea ice is not a factor, and for the studies where it is added, the risks are down-played and over-simplified. There is a good body of knowledge on how to retrieve oil in tempered water, but limited on how oil behaves in cold water. The field research on Arctic oil spill is also limited, and a knowledge gap remains connected to the challenges surrounding ice.

3.13 Oil spill surveillance in Arctic waters

The SINTEF report ‘The Utilization of Satellite Images for the Oil in Ice Experiment in the Barents Sea, May 2009’, funded by the 6 oil companies; Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Eni Agip Kco, Statoil, Shell and Total, describe how a combination of aerial and satellite surveillance has become the preferred method for monitoring off shore areas where an oil spill could occur in open waters. The aim was to test if the same conditions applied for the Barents Sea. This report was the outcome of a joint industry program with the aim to learn more about how oil behaves in ice covered waters. After several tests where oil was spilt under controlled conditions it was found that if the ice density was higher than 40%, it was impossible to trace an oil spill that had occurred under the ice with the current satellite monitoring. This caused concern as this means that it is not only no oil spill recovery system that is currently available that would be able to collect spilled oil, but an oil spill will neither be possible to spot, as the concentration of ice in the Barents Sea can be over 40% all year around, and with most of the year it is a certainty that it will be frozen near the Polar Front and the Ice Edge. 

4.0 Results and Analysis

This chapter aims at drawing conclusions from the main body of data and analyzes the findings from the case study in light of the literature review. 

4.1 Implications of Research Findings

In question 5 of the case study when I asked ‘Has anyone informed specifically about the risks of an oil spill for you who live close to the South-East Barents Sea?’ and the unanimous answer was ‘No’ could be an indicator towards that the Coastal Sámi I interviewed could have received such information from the Sámi Parliament, but this dissertation claims that even the Sámi Parliament can not have been given adequate information on this, as there are no scientific solutions on how to treat an oil spill in ice covered waters. This breaks with The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples that Norway has signed on the ‘Principle of Free, Prior and Informed Consent’. 

4.2 Conclusions

When treating land and sea resources where indigenous communities are involved it is necessary to meet the indigenous on their terms. The ocean holds a great value to the Coastal Sámi inhabitants, both as the primary source of food, but with a strong sense of identity being connected to the continuous living near the ocean. The planned oil activity in the South-East Barents Sea will pose a threat already under safe practice, as the seismic shooting the Norwegian oil industry uses in order to locate oil wells have a negative effect on larvae and fry that are to spend the first part of their lives in these areas. Among a limited amount of research on the effects on other fish species than cod and larger sea mammals from seismic shooting, there is still not a finished mapping of the sea bottom, which makes it impossible to predict further consequences of the marine life before 2020 when the sea bottom report is estimated to be finished. Large scale oil spill recovery test were made in the Barents Sea on a joint program by 6 oil companies that own oil concessions in the Arctic to test if the methods they had developed could be used in cleaning oil from ice covered waters. The results concluded that they had learnt a great deal from the experiments, but there are still many insecurities, both regarding how the oil changes and behaves in such cold waters, but the greatest gap in knowledge remains on how to extract oil that is trapped under or between the ice. The part of the oil spill program that regarded monitoring of oil under ice concluded that a higher ice density than 40% makes it impossible to spot the oil from under the ice when satellite monitoring is used, which is the preferred method for detecting oil spills in open waters. 

4.2.1 Recommendations based on key findings

Based on the key findings from both the case study and the literature review this dissertation recommends to decision makers, in this case the state of Norway: 

  1. An Arctic Legal Treaty should be drawn up specifically regarding the topic of how natural resources in and around the sea should be distributed between the Sámi population and the non-indigenous population of Norway. 
  2. As the sea bottom of the Barents Sea is currently being mapped by Mareano, and this report is estimated to be finalized in 2020, this dissertation recommends that no oil license allocations are made before this process is finalized so marine habitat can be preserved and important natural values will be saved.
  3. The IPCC estimates that the climate emissions needs to decrease 85% within 2050, and 40% within 2020 in order to avoid a temperature increase on more than 2 degrees celsius, and in order for Norway to achieve this, who has set out to reduced their national emissions with 20% within 2020, even Statoil's manager Helge Lund has said that it is a necessary to leave some of the oil reservoirs unexplored. This dissertation recommend that these areas are the South-East Barents Sea areas. 

4.3 Literature and methodological discussion

The literature of this dissertation was gathered in the request of highlighting as broadly as possible how Arctic oil drilling is a new policy step for Norway as an oil nation, and how prior knowledge from more southern latitudes will not be sufficient to safely drill for oil in the Arctic regions of Norway. The aim was to highlight the Coastal Sámi’s perspective on the consequences of an oil spill in their close environment. My chosen method was to contact Coastal Sámis as individual persons, not the organizations that represent them. The organizations were contacted, but only to ask if members were willing to participate. This might have been a flaw of the study, and more politically engaged members of the Sámi community could maybe have been a part of the study if they spoke on behalf of their organizations. Another methodological concern is the decision to not consult ‘experts’ from outside the Sámi community. The study could have been broadened by adding a closer perspective from academics working on issues concerning Sámi rights. Additional depth could have been gained if glaciologists and biologists who specialize in how oil affects the nature were consulted directly, and not only through academic sources. However, from the case study that was executed the answers served a great purpose of highlighting the same concerns that the scientific community raises. 

Consequences of seismic shooting for larva and fry

3.6.1 Consequences of seismic shooting for larva and fry 

Seismic shooting in itself is not a completely harmless activity either. Sound is an important way of communicating for many fish species when it comes to feeding, survival and reproduction. A seismic search at sea uses an air canon field with many air canons to send low frequency sound waves towards the sea bottom in order to search for oil and gas. The frequency of these sound waves overlaps with the frequency area where fish hear well. Adult and half adult fish have the ability to swim away from these sources of sound, whereas larva and fry do not possess the same ability. It is in the Svalbard zone and in many of the areas in both the South-East and the Northern Barents Sea where the fish population have their breeding places. This combination is problematic as research on spawning fish under the pressure of enduring seismic testing has stopped the spawning, and the larvae that experience these sound waves have either died momentarily or developed damages to their hearing, kidneys, hearts and swimming organs. Fry responded with losing their balance and immediately turned over and swam on their back or side after being exposed to the sound waves (Havforskningsinstituttet 2009). 

3.7 Concerns from the Norwegian Environmental Movement

In an open hearing written by the Norwegian environmentalist organizations Bellona, Fremtiden i våre hender (The Future in our Hands), Greenpeace, Natur og Ungdom (Nature and Youth), Naturvernforbundet (Nature Conservation Foundation) and SABIMA (Cooperation council for biodiversity) to the opening of The South-East Barents Sea their main concerns were the following: 

  1. Produced Water: In 2010 131 millions m3 of produced water was released from the Norwegian Shelf, and 129 millions m3 the next year. The concern comes when larvae and fry are exposed to high concentrations of production water as this has shown reduced weight and increased mortality in cod. There are still research holes on the effects of other fish besides cod, and on plant and zooplankton which is the nutrition for fry. This falls into the category of long term effects of the oil industry’s presence in the South-East Barents Sea and more research on produced water is desirable for a perspective where the oil industry is to coexist with the fishing industry. 
  2. Soot: Soot, or Black Carbon, will be a result of oil activity in the South-East Barents Sea, as the recommendation report could not exclude this factor from happening in the South-East Barents Sea. When Black Carbon is released on white snow and ice, it reduces the ability to reflect sunlight, the same way open melted water reflects less than white surfaces, which leads to an increased effect of global warming in the Arctic. (UNEP BC report, Twenty-sixth session of the Governing Council/Global Ministerial Environment Forum, February, 2011)
  3. Oil spill preparedness: Long distances to reach adequate equipment and the possibility for ice in the northern areas of the consequence investigated area makes oil spill recovery very challenging. In addition the weather conditions in the Barents Sea are known to be fundamentally harsher than areas at sea further south where there is oil business off shore. The low temperatures and the bad light conditions, among ice and heavy fog and very rapid weather changes all exemplifies how there are a multitude of challenges to overcome in order to have a fully operative oil spill recovery system available. It is further necessary to state that despite efforts and initiative from both science and the oil industry, there is currently no effective way of removing oil from ice covered waters. There are also the limitations of oil spill preparedness so close to the Ice Edge, as for the rest of the South- East Barents Sea. If an oil leakage were to occur under water on the sea bottom, the oil would have the opportunity to contaminate unhindered vast areas under the ice, as there is no existing strategy on how to retrieve the oil.
  4. Weather: The waves in the planned areas reaches between 13,9 and 15,6 meters towards 17 meters in the Barents Sea North (Klif 2013). These are significant heights when planning how to retrieve spilled oil. In 2008 there was an oil spill on Statfjord A, where 4400 cubic crude oil leaked out in the North Sea (Sintef 2008). This stands as an example that the existing oil spill recovery methods are not adequate when the waves are above 2,5 meters, as it was in the case of the Statfjord A accident. 
  5. Significant gaps in the oil spill preparedness: The Ministry of Climate and Pollution brought attention to how there is a limited availability to oil spill preparedness equipment both close to the shore, off shore and near the variable Ice Edge (DFN 2013). The Ministry points to factors as how the permanent ice and winter half year of darkness will challenge oil spill recovery attempts further from hard, to at times make it impossible. The Directorate for Nature Conserves argues that even though equipment might come in the future, there is always the possibility that the equipment might not work optimally, which gives the oil an opportunity to contaminate vulnerable areas (NRK 2008). The Norwegian Oil Spill Association has acknowledged the need for better oil spill recovery equipment on the Norwegian shelf. However, in the impact assessment on oil spill preparedness from the Parliament it is stated that the oil spill preparedness shall be equally good all year around (St.meld. 38 2003). As this can not be the case of the South-East Barents Sea consequence area, the environmental organizations do not consider it responsible to have petroleum activity in these areas. 
  6. Marine nature resources: The Climate and Pollution Directorate point to the data on how the sea bed will be affected is based upon knowledge on the sea bottom done by Russian Scientist in the 1930s, and that species are likely to have changed in numbers and bio mass since then (Klif 2013). In 2006 a new study of the marine sea bottom was started by Mareano, which is a branch from the Sea Research Institute, but this new study is not estimated to be finished before 2020 (HI 2007). The Climate and Pollution Directorate recommends that a precautionary approach is used when considering the South-East Barents Sea, and at least makes sure that no license allocations are made to the oil companies, before the Mareano report is finalized so marine habitat can be preserved and important natural values will be saved. 
  7. Consequences of marine noise: The environmental organizations do not find that the impact of increased seismic activity has been evaluated sufficiently. The Impact Assessment report for the South-East Barents Sea states in chapter 4.5 under other ‘environmental consequences’ that there will be negative consequences for the red listed Fin Whale and Baleen Whale. The consultancy firm Rambøll proposes that seismic free zone in areas where whales with calves are observed can be arranged, to stop the damages both physiologically and behaviour-wise on the animals. Similar seismic free zones should be drawn up in all the areas with large sea mammals in the South-East Barents Sea (Rambøl 2007). This arrangement includes stopping seismic activity when large sea mammals move into the seismic free zones that must be drawn up around the installations, in order to be effective to prevent the population of for example fin whales to further decrease.