Drilling and operational sounds from an oil production island in the ice covered Beaufort Sea

Pay-walled Peer Reviewed Publication 2004

Journal of the Acoustical Society of America

Recordings of sounds underwater and in air, and of iceborne vibrations, were obtained at Northstar Island, an artificial gravel island in the Beaufort Sea near Prudhoe Bay (Alaska). The aim was to document the levels, characteristics, and range dependence of sounds and vibrations produced by drilling and oil production during the winter, when the island was surrounded by shore-fast ice. Drilling produced the highest underwater broadband (10–10?000 Hz) levels (maximum=124 dB re: 1 μPa at 1 km), and mainly affected 700–1400 Hz frequencies. In contrast, drilling did not increase broadband levels in air or ice relative to levels during other island activities. Production did not increase broadband levels for any of the sensors. In all media, broadband levels decreased by ∼20 dB/tenfold change in distance. Background levels underwater were reached by 9.4 km during drilling and 3–4 km without. In the air and ice, background levels were reached 5–10 km and 2–10 km from Northstar, respectively, depending on the wind but irrespective of drilling. A comparison of the recorded sounds with harbor and ringed seal audiograms showed that Northstar sounds were probably audible to seals, at least intermittently, out to ∼1.5 km in water and ∼5 km in air.

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