Science and Technology in Russian Federation

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August 27 | The FTP 2014-2020

Russian Scientists Will be Able to Control Icebergs

Scientists of the Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute are developing the technologies of managing the icebergs that threaten the Russian oil platforms and other marine structures. Of course, they are unlikely to help to tame giant ice floes drifting through the northern seas, but will allow to predict their movement for a few days ahead and to take them away in case they represent an imminent danger to the people.

Trouble-free oil production is something from science fiction. In reality, companies developing deposits of black gold are often faced with unexpected situations, for which they are sometimes not ready. Moreover, in practice, the elimination of consequences of oil emergency even in the warm waters such as the Mexican Gulf is connected with the same difficult decisions and «just-in-time» decisions. Let alone the Arctics, where a man, tempted by the wealth of its subsoil, feels completely defenseless. One of the main dangers of the North that lies in wait for people working on oil platforms is the threat of ice (ice fields, icebergs and fragments). Thousands of boulders break off from the glaciers of Spitsbergen, Franz Josef Land, Novaya Zemlya and other archipelagos each year and drift across the ocean. Iceberg weight can reach several million tons, and in the event of a collision with slow-moving platforms it will simply destroys them like paper boats.

It is possible to anticipate the movement of icebergs and to affect them or, as the scientists themselves say, to manage ice conditions, with the help of modern technologies specifically developed for the arctic conditions. Such technologies are already present in particular in Canada, and a group of scientists of the Arctic and Antarctic Scientific Research Institute, supported by the "Research and development on priority directions of scientific-technological complex of Russia for 2014-2020" Federal Target Program ("Creation of new methods and tools for monitoring of hydro-meteorological and geophysical data on the Spitsbergen archipelago and Western Arctic zone of the Russian Federation" project) is currently developing such technologies in Russia, which is actively expanding business in northern latitudes.

"In fact, there is nothing tricky here. Our task is to provide target designation for ice protection vessels operating on the continental shelf in the event of iceberg danger, - Alexander Danilov, the project manager, Deputy Director of FGBI "AARI", said. - Such a threat comes to the fore if we talk about the high-latitude deposits of oil and gas in the Barents Sea and Kara Seas".

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It is necessary to detect an iceberg in time and correctly predict its movement for a few days in advance to avoid disaster. According to the scientist, the main difficulty is to see an ice block with the help of satellites, drones or aircraft and to calculate its trajectory by an algorithm, which takes into account the dynamics of the atmosphere, the dynamics of water and ice in addition to the parameters of iceberg. When it becomes clear that an iceberg is approaching to a platform, where there are exploration drilling and constant production of oil, for a dangerous distance, the ice protection vessels will get an order "to defuse the situation". With the help of special nets and ropes they'll take an iceberg away for a safe distance, so that it cannot go into the working area of the object for sure.

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That's how the researchers themselves imagine the set of tools, which they create and assemble to manage ice conditions in the northern seas, in action.

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"In fact, it will be a hardware-software complex – the "iron" plus software –Alexander Danilov explains. - It will be very convenient for work; we at least strive to make it so. You do not need to go to the Arctic to manage it. Everything can be done in a single center in the capital or in any other city. Along with this, information will come to the scene very quickly. The creation of such tools will allow our country to become self-sufficient in solving such problems of the Arctic. Serious experience of such work was got while maintaining the exploration drilling in the license area of NK "Rosneft" in the Kara Sea in the summer of 2014, as a result of which a giant oil "Victory" field was discovered".

Works to create the complex will be completed in 2016. Russian Arctic ice hazards monitoring tools will be tested for the first time on Spitsbergen and in the Russian part of the Western Arctic – in the Barents and Kara seas, where domestic companies are increasingly deploying activities of exploration and production of oil and gas.

In the frameworks of this project, the scientists are developing similar monitoring tools for predicting of climate changes, pollution of land and water areas, as well as hazardous geodynamic phenomena typical for shelf and coastal zone of the Arctic.

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