17 November 2011, 10:54

Russia’s environmental safeguards for the Arctic. Part III

Russia’s environmental safeguards for the Arctic. Part III

The Voice of Russian spoke to the Director-General of the National Energy Security Foundation Konstantin Simonov on the prospects for Arctic development and the Northern Sea Route and the ecological risks involved in Arctic gas production.

The Voice of Russian spoke to the Director-General of the National Energy Security Foundation Konstantin Simonov on the prospects for Arctic development and the Northern Sea Route and the ecological risks involved in Arctic gas production.

To begin with Konstantin Simonov feels that any project involving the production of hydrocarbons, above all in such ecologically vulnerable areas as the Arctic, will certainly entail a high level of environmental risk. The expert believes that the risks should not stop new projects and that this has not been a danger, citing the fact Arctic projects have already become reality and are being carried out.

Canada and the United States have been carrying out mineral resource acquisition in the region for quite some time and Norway produces liquefied gas at its Snow Maiden facility in the Arctic. The Russian Federation is now considering the development of the Shtokman gas deposit in the Arctic and weighing oil and gas production projects in the Kara Sea. The Arctic projects have been initiated for the sole reason that the world is running out of easy-of-access fields and humanity will soon have to start producing hydrocarbons in complex geological conditions.

If fuel is to be produced in the Arctic stringent environmental safety requirements must be met in order to prevent a disaster such as those that have been suffered by many oil companies worldwide. Fortunately no such disaster has ever occurred in Russia.

Russia is meeting its ecology-related obligations in the Arctic and the far North. Among the many things that Russia is doing is its program to remove Soviet era waste from the Arctic. Russia has also proposed co-insuring global eco-risks and is looking at all sorts of solutions that will help minimize environmental risks to the Arctic.

Global warming has opened up the possibility of new transport corridors that until now would have been impossible to consider, including the Northern Sea Route. An enormous advantage of the Northern Sea Route is that it makes it possible to largely reduce the delivery period for goods, for example, from China to Europe and vice versa. The route from Europe to Asia or from Asia to Europe over the new route is extremely cost-effective as travel time has been cut by days.

Several major projects to produce hydrocarbons are about to be launched in the Arctic, so it clearly stands to reason that liquefied cargo carriers will be used to deliver oil and gas to Asian markets where demand is growing due to a refusal to use nuclear energy and rapid economic growth.

Konstantin Simonov feels that, technology-wise, the development of the Arctic is something that will require technology on the same scale as that needed for space exploration and this is not an exaggeration. An example of the an extreme situation is in the prospecting of minerals on the Arctic seabed where temperatures can easily drop to 40 degrees or more below zero and which call for using machinery that is reminiscent of moon rovers.

There has also arisen the need to decide on one of two competing concepts to produce fuel. One is by using drilling rigs and the other by underwater production techniques. A drilling rig is already operating, namely the  Razlomnaya Project, which will be implemented using a platform which is more than 120 metres high and will be able to resist 12 to 13-metre high waves.

Ways are being thought up to deliver liquefied natural gas from the gas fields in severe icy conditions. This is a mammoth task as no one has ever transported liquefied natural gas across thousands of miles of ocean ice but something we will come to grips with since there is no way avoiding it according to the General Director of the National Energy Security Foundation Konstantin Simonov.   

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