AT-833 Arctic Petroleum: Challenges for Society, Technology, and Environment (10 ECTS)

AB-201 sampling, August 2013. Photo: Steve Coulson/UNIS

June 28, 2021
August 3, 2021
Autumn semester (June–August), annually
10 ECTS with AT-333
Letter grade (A through F)
The course material will include the lectures and a selection of scientific articles given by the lecturers. Dataset from last year’s field measurements will be provided as a support for different purposes during the course such as seminar, written report and animation movie.
NOK 400–600 (2–3 days x NOK 200 per overnight stay)
10/20 students (AT-333/AT-833 in total)
Bilingual dictionary between English and mother tongue
February 15, 2021


Perrine Geraudie
Adjunct associate Professor, Environmental Toxicology

UNIS contact person: Aleksey Shestov

Course requirements:

Enrolment in a relevant PhD programme in technology, biology, chemistry, environment, geology, biotechnology, architecture or sociology. The course is interdisciplinary, and is open to students from various fields of study.

Academic content:

The course has the objective to provide important interdisciplinary knowledge on the potential and existing challenges related with petroleum exploration and operations in the Arctic, from especially an environmental perspective. The course will cover general knowledge within ocean governance and petroleum industry dynamics, petroleum geology and geophysics, risk management, surveillance and oil spill emergency response as well as chemical weathering and impacts on Arctic ecosystems including social impacts on local human populations.

More specifically the course will cover:

  • petroleum industry history, dynamic and evolution; High North developments;
  • introduction to petroleum geology and geophysics including the definition of specific terms and introduction to exploration and play concepts.
  • Barents Sea oil and gas fields as well as discoveries on the Russian side and pan-Arctic overview
  • sustainable exploitation, pressure handling for no drilling hazards, natural seeps and pockmarks and importance of site survey
  • principles of risk assessment and management (environmental, occupational, technological, and operational risk)
  • surveillance and remote sensing (satellite vs. airplane vs. unmanned planes), synthetic aperture radar principles and applications including oil spill detection and characterization
  • oil spill response (Norwegian system and international law and cooperation).
  • oil spill history and contingency methods
  • oil composition and properties, oil spill weathering (on open water and in ice) and modeling of weathering processes
  • introduction to Arctic ecosystems (specific adaptation, sensitivity to environmental stressors including petroleum compounds).
  • environmental impacts of the petroleum industry (both seismic activities, operational and accidental discharges)
  • toxicity tests applied to petroleum related compounds
  • environmental monitoring program related to the petroleum industry
  • indirect effects of petroleum related compounds, such as plastic pollution in the Arctic (from macro to nanoplastic debris)
  • small scale laboratory experiment to investigate ecotoxicological impacts of contaminants on living organisms.

Learning outcomes:

Upon completing the course, the students will have:

  • a general knowledge of the integrated ocean governance and petroleum industry dynamics and evolution in the High North
  • general knowledge of petroleum geology and geophysics including the definition of important terms, an introduction to exploration and play concepts, a pan-Arctic overview of existing field and new discoveries and some concepts related to sustainable exploitation
  • good knowledge of the interdisciplinary nature of risk assessment and management linked to the petroleum industry including the implications of uncertainty for the assessment and management of environmental, operational and technological risks
  • overview of surveillance systems/remote sensing (satellite, airplane, unmanned planes) and relevant satellite sensors
  • good knowledge of Synthetic aperture radar principles, data analysis, sea-ice, ocean wave, wind and current applications and SAR for oil spill detection and characterisation
  • specific knowledge about oil spill preparedness and remediation
  • knowledge of weathering processes of oil and environmental effects in relation to Arctic ecosystems, including basic ecological knowledge of Arctic ecosystems and their characteristics (seasonal variations, spring bloom, polar night).
  • good knowledge of the laboratory methods used to characterize the oil properties in relation to spills
  • specific knowledge of environmental monitoring guidelines and methods.

Upon completing the course, the students will be able to:

  • perform a holistic risk assessment of a specific industry activity in the Arctic and suggest risk mitigation and reduction strategies
  • collect data during fieldwork, perform chemical analyses and interpret and present results
  • use the SINTEF Oil Weathering Model to predict the fate and behaviour of an oil spill
  • assess and consider measures to reduce damage from an oil spill, and suggest appropriate and effective methods for collecting oil / handling of the spill
  • perform laboratory work in accordance with good laboratory practices.

General competences
Upon completing the course, the students will:

  • have a broad and interdisciplinary overview of petroleum sciences, to increase awareness of field of sciences closely linked to the student´s own specialization. By providing future scientists and engineers with the “big picture”, this course is an important preparation for professional careers in petroleum sciences, both for the academic and private sectors
  • be able to integrate and apply knowledge from different fields of sciences to reflect on common challenges and answer new questions encountered during studies and professional life
  • be able to reflect analytically and critically on their own and others’ scientific work
  • be able to work autonomously and in a group
  • be able to search and update knowledge in general
  • be able to communicate and synthetize knowledge orally and in written form
  • have experience in writing reports / publications based on literature, field and lab studies
  • be able to make a scientific poster and present it to an audience
  • be able to run a small scale ecotoxicological investigation to study effects of contaminants on Arctic organisms.

Learning activities:

The course extends over a period of 5-6 weeks including compulsory safety training, and is run in combination with AT-333.

The course is organized in lectures, seminars, field and laboratory work. The fieldwork (2–3 days) will consist of a sample collection (water, fish, soil) from several locations near Longyearbyen and Isfjord radio. The samples will be prepared at UNIS for further analytical measurements. The student will also have a group work to carry out a generic risk analysis, based on a chosen topic that will be presented in class. All assignments (fieldwork, experiment, risk characterization, etc.) will be used in order to write a scientific report. A chosen topic selected from the report will be presented under the form of a poster.

Students will be taught how to make an animation movie and will use this format to present their findings during the course in relation to lectures, fieldwork and laboratory measurements.

Students will be given relevant literature to study and prepare seminars to discuss specific questions.

Field work activities are weather dependent and can change due to unforced factors.

Total lecture hours: 50 hours.
Student seminars: 20 hours.
Excursions / fieldwork: 2–3 days.
Laboratory work: 2-3 days.
Work on reports: 7 days.

Compulsory learning activities:

Excursions / fieldwork and lab work. Scientific poster.
All compulsory learning activities must be approved in order to sit the exam.


Method Duration Percentage of final grade
Scientific report 40%
Animation movie 20%
Written exam 4 hours 40%

All assessments must be passed in order to pass the course.
Each assessment is graded, and subsequently combined into a single grade. Partial grades for each assessment will be available.

Application deadline: 15 February 2021


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Telephone: +47 79 02 33 00
Student inquiries:
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Address: P.O. Box 156 N-9171 Longyearbyen
Org. no. 985 204 454


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