Russia’s environmental safeguards for the Arctic. Part IV
If we are to protect our environment and ensure the future of the world there then exists a need to study climatic processes and environment pollution which calls for environmental monitoring; devising risk simulation, analysis and management techniques, involving the use of geographic information systems and technologies. Using this as a basis the forecasting of environmental changes is possible and necessary whenever the scale and trends of hydrocarbon resource development in the Arctic are determined.
A future oil and gas field production decline in certain Russian regions prompts the need for developing hydrocarbon deposits in the Arctic. According to the estimates of the US Geological Survey, some 25% of world hydrocarbon reserves are concentrated inside the Arctic Circle. Potential oil deposits in the Arctic are estimated at being approximately 90 billion barrels, gas deposits at over 47 trillion cubic meters and gas condensate at over 44 billion barrels.
Russia owns the largest hydrocarbon reserves in the Arctic, some 60% of the total by current estimates, or more than 250 million barrels. 90% of all of Russia’s exploitable hydrocarbons are currently concentrated in its Arctic zone. Over 100 potentially productive oil and gas fields and 11 proven deposits have been discovered in the Barents, Pechora and Kara Seas.
Four of the eleven proven deposits, located in the Barents and Kara Seas, boast enormous gas and gas-condensate reserves. Two major gas deposits are located in the Barents Sea, while a major oil field and a gas-condensate deposit are located in the Pechora Sea. Another four oil fields have been discovered in the Pechora Sea in recent years, while two major gas deposits have been discovered in the Gulf of Ob.
According to unofficial estimates by the Russian Mineral Resource Ministry, the Barents and Kara Seas account for some 80% of ultimate potential of hydrocarbon resources of Russia’s entire Arctic continental shelf, of which the potential reserves exceed 100 billion tons of fuel.
The development of hydrocarbon deposits in the Arctic calls for the development of coastal infrastructure, including reloading and accumulation terminals, oil and gas storage facilities, an extensive network of underwater and surface pipelines, the commissioning of sea transport and auxiliary ships, and provisions for security services and weather and ice monitoring information systems.
Given that the development of oil and gas deposits in the Arctic is capital-intensive and involves heightened risks, there must be comprehensive research into the conditions and peculiarities of the macro-region, as well as on multi-parameter based forecasts on which to base all decisions on which to move forward.
The climate changes which are taking place in the Arctic have been prompted by global warming. The interrelationship between global climate change and climate change in the Arctic is of major importance. Modern-day western computer-generated climatic models fail to offer accurate regional assessments a fact which has been proven by Russian studies which cast real doubts on the accuracy of predictions for environmental change in the Arctic, as well as on the way that change influences the oil and gas sector and the infrastructure in the region.
The vulnerability of the Arctic’s natural environment coupled with the dramatic effects caused by on-going climate changes makes such changes extremely to the population and the economic activity in the Arctic. Extreme scrutiny is called for whenever research is done into environmental change or when risk assessments are conducted.