6. If an accident were to occur, it will be impossible to collect the oil because it is so cold, and it is too far from shore to get assistance.
Modern oil protection equipment has been designed to efficiently collect oil spills in cold conditions, and testing shows that there is less risk of oil spreading due to coagulation in low temperatures. Oil protection equipment and oil booms are available on board the supply boats and stand-by vessels located at the rig throughout the operation. To reduce the challenge that the distance to shore represents, the supply boats surrounding the rig will have more emergency equipment on board than they normally carry on the Norwegian continental shelf.
The expected potential dispersion of oil on the ocean varies from well to well. For Korpfjell and Gemini North, for example, this would be 120 and 90 kilometres, respectively. Statoil has specified the oil spill preparedness so extensively that most oil would be recovered before it reached shore. In the case of Korpfjell, oil would not reach shore before dissolving through evaporation or being mixed into the water. The island of Hopen in the Svalbard archipelago is the closest land area to Korpfjell, 410 kilometres away, and is therefore too far away for any oil to reach shore.
Evaporation and mixing of oil following a discharge begin immediately after oil accumulates on the sea surface. Three natural processes then begin, all of which will contribute to the break-up and disappearance of any oil slick:
First phase. The lighter components of the oil would evaporate. How fast this happens, depends on weather conditions and oil consistency. Light oil evaporates faster than heavier oils. Light oil is expected in all the wells that are to be drilled this year.
Second phase. Water is mixed into the oil through an emulsion. This may increase the volume of the oil slick, even if the actual concentration of the oil is lower.
Third phase. The most important process is the natural dispersal of the oil. The dispersal largely occurs as wind and waves cause the oil slick to break up into small oil droplets. The larger the waves and the stronger the wind, the faster the oil slick will be broken up. These droplets will then be mixed into water below the sea surface. The concentration of toxic substances will then quite rapidly drop to below the level that affects living organisms, and at this stage, the oil can no longer harm life in the ocean.
Oil spill response measures will be initiated to remove oil from the surface, thus contributing to faster biodegradation of the oil in the water. There are stringent requirements for preparing for such situations, and all operations in the Barents Sea have and will be supported by excellent oil spill response measures.