Meeting the safety challenges of seismic projects in extreme cold

Working in remote, sensitive and operationally challenging environments is complex, and Western Canada during winter is no exception. On a recent 4D seismic program, the weather dropped to -51oC (-60oF). Brrrr! But our deep expertise in safety planning and seismic project management ensured our client avoided costly delays and, most importantly, kept everyone onsite safe.

The Polar Vortex

Seismic operations during winter are very common in Western Canada, with policies and procedures designed to keep our teams safe under ‘normal’ winter conditions. However, on February 4th 2021, a Polar Vortex swept across the Saskatchewan Prairies bringing extreme cold temperatures, even by Canadian standards. Temperatures plummeted from seasonal norms to an average of -43oC (-45oF), and the coldest day reaching a dangerous -51oC (-60oF).

At the time, RPS was actively managing a 4D seismic program east of Saskatoon. As with all of our projects, worker safety is paramount, and working outside in frigid temperatures for 9-12 hours a day poses serious health and safety risks. And with the initial weather forecasts predicting these cold temperatures would last 7-10 days, the stand-by costs incurred could easily have exceeded the overall project budget.

Delivering our work safely, on time and under budget

The Polar Vortex meant we needed a new plan to ensure our teams safety. There were several challenges the team needed to tackle to provide the additional safety measures for working in this extreme cold. The first was gaining additional site access for trucks to provide shelter in the field. We employed local farmers to plow the source and receiver lines on the project to allow the seismic teams to safely travel the seismic lines, typically on foot, while never being far away from a place to warm-up.


seismic line under 2 feet of snow

And secondly, we employed a buddy system. Working in pairs meant that everybody had someone looking out for them, to monitor for any signs of frostbite and/or hypothermia.


Seismic layout crew in full PPE for extreme cold weather

RPS’ deep expertise in safety and seismic project management mitigated a potentially significant delay in the project’s completion. Despite the frigid temperatures, the project was completed under budget, on schedule and with no incidents.


Contact us

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Orrin Foster

Technical Director, Geophysical Operations T: +1 403 265 7226 Email
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Calgary | Canada
Dean Malhiot, Senior Manager – North American Well Operations, RPS

Dean Malhiot

Technical Director – North American, Onshore Well Operations T: +1 281 448 6188 Email
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Houston - Dairy Ashford | US
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Roger Edgecombe

Director Energy Operations - AAP T: +61 8 9211 1119 Email
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Perth - Subiaco | Australia

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