Beaufort Sea Extreme Wave Estimation

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At this time planning for hydrocarbon production in the Beaufort Sea is well advanced. Present schemes call for the use of fixed gravity structures to support topside facilities and the design of these structures depends to a large extent on ice and wave design criteria. Ice is considered to be the most critical environmental factor; however, the decisions on caisson or deck elevations and on sand berm stability during the open–water season also depend on knowledge of the wave climate, during both normal and extreme conditions.

In particular estimates of the 100–year return wave height and period are essential criteria. A number of wave hindcast studies have been carried out over the past decade, both by the oil industry and by government, to determine these parameters. The results are quite divergent, spanning the range from about five to more than 15 metres for significant wave height, Each hindcast was subject to a number of limitations imposed by the available data, the methods used or from a combination of both causes. The purpose of this report is to critically review these hindcasts and to present a summary discussion of the results. This is primarily intended to put the results in the context for which they were derived, and to attempt, as far as possible, to indicate their reliability. A number of follow–on studies into the use of measured wave data for extreme wave estimation, and into a more detailed statistical description of storm meteorology and ice conditions were undertaken by Esso Resources Canada Limited following the last major hindcast completed in 1981. Some of the results of these studies are reviewed briefly in this report as well. Finally, longer–term research goals to improve design wave estimates in the Beaufort Sea are identified.


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