More Arctic Shelf for Russia?



1.2 million, 5 billion tons of fuel: Russia to apply for Arctic shelf expansion

Published time: October 29, 2014 16:40
The Akademik Fyodorov research vessel setting off for the largest Post-Soviet expedition in the Arctic Ocean. (RIA Novosti/Press-Service of Government of Arkhangelsk region)The Akademik Fyodorov research vessel setting off for the largest Post-Soviet expedition in the Arctic Ocean. (RIA Novosti/Press-Service of Government of Arkhangelsk region)

Russia will address the UN on the expansion of its Arctic shelf next spring. If successful the move would see the country adding an area of 1.2 million sq. kilometers in the Arctic Ocean, holding 5 billion tons of standard fuel, to its territory.

A field investigation to make such an appeal possible has been successfully completed in the area, Sergey Donskoy, the country’s natural resources minister, said.

The results of the new research will allow for updating Russia’s initial application, which the country filed to the United Nations in 2001.

Russia intends to add another 1.2 million square kilometers of territory in the Arctic ocean to its continental shelf.

The move would permit Russia to increase its potential hydrocarbon reserves by at least 5 billion tons of standard fuel, Donskoy said, adding that “those are just the most humble assessments, and I’m sure that the actual figure will be a lot larger.”

“For us, for the Ministry [of Natural Resources], this is a much anticipated day. We’ll submit an application on our shelf, on our Arctic borders to the UN in spring next year,” the minister said, as he greeted the researchers from the Akademik Fedorov on their return to St. Petersburg.


Panorama of the Franz Josef Land Archipelago. (Reuters/Vladimir Baranov)Panorama of the Franz Josef Land Archipelago. (Reuters/Vladimir Baranov)

He stressed that the Akademik Fedorov expedition “performed all that was required, even exceeding the initial plans.”

“We now possess all the necessary studies to put an application together and present it to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS). We have a full amount of scientific data and continue to work with the best geologists, who are part of the Commission,” Donskoy said.

The expedition was launched on July 10, spanning an area of 350,000 square kilometers in the Arctic Ocean.

The scientists carried out comprehensive studies to establish the geological and geophysical basis for assessing the petroleum potential of the continental shelf beyond Russia’s exclusive economic zone.

For the UN to recognize Moscow’s ownership of those areas, it must be scientifically proven that they are a continuation of the continental crust with the same general geological structure.

“I’m confident that it’s our shelf. All the specialists are saying that we have a very good application. The acceptance of this application by the Commission is virtually an acceptance of our geological model by the specialists from all other Arctic interests,” Donskoy said.


Russian Minister of Natural Resources and Ecology Sergey Donskoy. (RIA Novosti/Alexander Astafyev)Russian Minister of Natural Resources and Ecology Sergey Donskoy. (RIA Novosti/Alexander Astafyev)

Over 60 large hydrocarbon fields have been discovered above the Arctic Circle, with 43 of them in the Russian sector.

The total recoverable resources of Russia’s part of the Arctic are estimated at 106 billion tons of oil and 69.5 trillion cubic meters of gas.

The discovery of the deposits sparked international competition over the region’s resources, in which all the Arctic states – Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden and the US – are involved.

Approximately 30 percent of the world’s undiscovered natural gas and 15 percent of its oil lie in the Arctic, with an estimated 84 percent of the Arctic’s 90 billion barrels of oil and 47.3 trillion cubic meters of gas remaining offshore.


Drilling Halted in Arctic…

Exxon Said to Halt Arctic Oil Well Drilling on Sanctions

By Alan Katz, Joe Carroll, Mikael Holter and Stephen Bierman Sep 19, 2014 4:38 AM ET

Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM) and OAO Rosneft halted drilling on an offshore oil well intended as the first step in unlocking billions of barrels of crude in Russia’s remote Arctic, according to people familiar with the project.

Work stopped just a few days after the U.S. and European Union barred companies from helping Russia exploit Arctic, deep-water or shale-oil fields, said three people with knowledge of the rig’s operations who asked not to be named since they weren’t authorized to speak about the project. The U.S. sanctions, meant to punish Russia for escalating tensions in Ukraine, gave American companies until Sept. 26 to stop all restricted drilling and testing services.


Exxon, Rosneft and Seadrill Ltd. (SDRL)’s North Atlantic Drilling (NADL) unit are under the gun to finish or temporarily seal the $700 million well off Russia’s northern coast before the sanctions deadline, said Chris Kettenmann, chief energy strategist at Prime Executions Inc., a brokerage firm in New York. With just eight days left before sanctions require Exxon to stop all Arctic work with its Russian partner Rosneft, the project probably is on hold until next year at the earliest, he said.

“This has been one of the most-watched wells in the industry, so this is a huge deal,” said Kettenmann, who has a sell rating on Exxon’s shares. “There’s a hard stop here.”

Photographer: Andrey Rudakov/Bloomberg

Vladimir Putin, Russia’s president, has been unmoved. On Aug. 9, just days after the… Read More

Building Industry

Rosneft fell as much as 1.5 percent in Moscow, trading 0.8 percent lower at 236.9 rubles a share as of 11:26 a.m. local time. Seadrill dropped as much as 1.5 percent in Oslo, before paring its loss to 1.1 percent. Exxon closed 0.5 percent lower yesterday at $96.6 a share.

Waging Financial War

Since the Soviet Union broke up a quarter-century ago, U.S. and European companies have helped build Russia’s energy industry in the hope of capturing some of its 75 billion barrels of reserves. The drilling halt of the Universitetskaya-1 well is the first tangible evidence that sanctions are now slowing that investment.

The well was the opening shot at tapping an estimated 9 billion barrels of crude deep under the floor of the Kara Sea, worth about $885 billion at current prices. It’s key both to Russia’s quest to find new oil fields to replace its declining Soviet-era wells and to Exxon’s efforts to halt falling production.

Legal Compliance

“We are still assessing the sanctions, but will comply with all laws and regulations,” Dick Keil, an Exxon spokesman, said in a telephone interview. Keil declined to comment further. Rosneft’s press service declined to comment.

The U.S. and Europe have imposed a series of escalating sanctions against Russia since its annexation of Crimea in March and because of support for separatists in eastern Ukraine. The restrictions have pushed Russia’s economy to the verge of a recession, and the impact could last two to three years, former Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin said this week.

Putin has been unmoved. On Aug. 9, just days after the U.S. and EU announced that they would restrict the export of technology needed for Arctic, shale and deep-sea exploration, Putin — speaking via satellite — personally ordered the start of drilling on the well, Russia’s first in the Arctic Ocean. Exxon’s chief of Russia operations attended the event.

Expanded sanctions last week added a ban on services provided to such projects, effectively putting an end to Exxon’s continued work on the well.

Safe Exit

No official decision has yet been made on whether to try to restart drilling this year or wait until next year, two of the people with knowledge of the situation said. Regardless, Exxon and Rosneft have probably run out of time to get anything more done in 2014, said Sigbjoern Sangesland, professor in the Petroleum Engineering and Applied Geophysics department at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology.

Exxon must leave itself enough time to safely shut the well before abandoning it.

“I would think that they would stop where they are now,” said Sangesland. “If they have a week left, they need that time to set plugs in the well and pull out the blowout preventer and anchor.”

Rosneft has already felt the sting of sanctions, which have affected its financing and ability to acquire technology. Chief Executive Officer and long-time Putin ally Igor Sechin, 54, has also been personally sanctioned, banned from travel to the U.S. in April.

To contact the reporters on this story: Alan Katz in Washington at; Joe Carroll in Chicago at; Mikael Holter in Oslo at; Stephen Bierman in Moscow at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Sara Forden at; Susan Warren at Dylan Griffiths, Tony Barrett

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What’s ahead for the Arctic

Ponds ‘predict Arctic sea-ice melt’

By Jonathan Amos Science correspondent, BBC News

Melt ponds on sea ice As the sea ice melts, ponds of water collect on top of the floes

A UK team believes it can now make skilful predictions of how much sea ice will melt during Arctic summers.

The scientists say the amount of water ponding on top of the floes as they warm in the spring has been shown to be an excellent indicator.

Using their technique, the Reading University researchers reckon the minimum ice extent this September will be about 5.4 million square km.

It is about the same as at the end of the melt season last year.

The floes in the far north are the subject of intense study currently because of their rapid summer decline.

Their extent has diminished from about 7 million square km in the 1990s to less than 5 million square km in five of the past seven years, with a record minimum of 3.6 million square km being set in 2012.

But the year-to-year variation is large and the computer models in general have failed to capture the behaviour.

Dark cover

“The sort of three-month prediction we’re making would be useful for people who need to do operations in the Arctic, such as shipping companies for navigation purposes,” explained Prof Daniel Feltham, who leads the NERC Centre for Polar Observation and Modelling team at Reading.

“But the physics we’re introducing will also, hopefully, help improve the climate models that look longer term,” he told BBC News.

Sea ice The current rate of decline in September sea-ice cover is running at about 13% per decade

Prof Feltham and colleagues have found a strong correlation between the fraction of the floes covered by pond water in May and the eventual sea-ice extent seen in September.

The physical link is the change in reflectiveness, or albedo, brought about by the standing water.

The ponds are darker than bare ice and therefore absorb more of the Sun’s energy, promoting further melting.

Prof Feltham’s team has developed a model to forecast the evolution of melt ponds in the Arctic and has incorporated this into more general climate sea-ice models.

Satellite records show that the year with smallest pond fraction in late spring (11% in 1996) had the biggest sea ice extent in September; and the year with the largest pond fraction (34% in 2012) featured the all-time low extent come the autumn.

The team published its ideas in a recent edition of the journal Nature Climate Change.

Southern differences

Now, it has put out its first open forecast for this September of 5.4 million square km, give or take half a million.

It compares with 5.35 million square km averaged across September last year.

“What could knock our prediction off course? Weather conditions, certainly. If we have anomalously cold conditions, we would expect the ice extent to be higher; or if we had very stormy conditions, like they did in August 2012 – that could diverge the ice and encourage more melting,” he said.

In contrast to the Arctic, the Antarctic is currently showing an alternative trend, with the winter maximum extent growing to record levels.

How useful the Reading technique would be in predicting the region’s summer minimums is uncertain.

The factors that control the floes in the south are different to those in the north, and already they diminish to very low extents by autumn as a matter of course anyway.

A New Zealand-led team recently demonstrated that the choppiness of Southern Ocean water could have a moderating impact on the growth of sea ice around Antarctica.

The Reading number has been submitted to Arctic Research Consortium of the United States (ARCUS) Sea Ice Prediction Network. This has become a kind of annual academic “competition” run between scientists who study the Arctic to see whose forecast most closely matches the eventual outcome. and follow me on Twitter: @BBCAmos

Stepping up the weather & ice forecasts!

NOAA’s new Arctic Action Plan calls for enhanced weather and sea-ice forecasts

Yereth Rosen

Walrus hauled out on the sea ice near King Island. The island is located in the Bering Sea, an increasingly important shipping route in the Arctic, which is the subject of a new NOAA report. Loren Holmes photo

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has launched a five-year science initiative to better understand the impact of Arctic weather and changing climate on the mid-latitude zones of the United States, where weather extremes have become common in recent years.

That science initiative is part of NOAA’s contribution to the National Strategy for the Arctic Region released by President Obama last May and the implementation plan released by the White House in January, the agency said on Monday.

NOAA, the federal agency responsible for weather forecasts and stewardship of marine resources, released its Arctic Action Plan, a document that outlines current and future programs aimed at improving oversight of the land in northern Alaska and the marine waters off the state’s northern and western coasts.

The action plan focuses on these goals:

• Better sea-ice and weather forecasts and warnings;

• More scientific research to understand Arctic climate change and effects;

• Improved management and stewardship of Alaska’s marine and coastal resources;

• Improved support of Arctic communities; and

• Increased work with international organizations like the Arctic Council.

NOAA’s work in the Arctic has been hampered by a shortage of data, the action plan said.

“Weather analysis and prediction capabilities are currently poorer in the Arctic than in other parts of the United States,” the plan said. “Major challenges for long-term modeling being addressed by NOAA include the lack of good physical data regarding winds and clouds. Although accurate forecasts and models depend upon the availability of observations, existing observations in the Arctic are very limited in both geographic scope and frequency.”

To address those problems, NOAA is planning to increase the number of data-collecting sensors on land, at sea and on satellites. Better real-time data will help NOAA better predict immediate dangers in the Arctic, such as rapid ice form-up and storm surges, the new plan said. One important task is improving resolution of sea-ice data so that finer-scale information can be acquired, according to the plan.

The plan calls for improved science, as well, to meet NOAA’s marine stewardship missions, such as additional trawl surveys to understand fish populations and more research on vulnerable marine mammal species.

The plan also calls for additional cooperative work with organizations from other countries — Russia, Japan and Norway, for example — as well as multinational organizations. One specific goal is to work with the International Maritime Organization to complete the final version of a pending Polar Code to protect Arctic waters from pollution and to mitigate safety hazards.

NOAA’s Arctic programs encompass a broad geographic scope. In addition to land in Alaska and waters above the Arctic Circle — the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas — the plan covers subarctic regions in interior and western Alaska and out to the western Bering Sea.

Currently, about 61 percent of NOAA’s Arctic budget goes to stewardship and management of natural resources, a mission that includes oversight of fisheries and marine species. Sea-ice research accounted for 3.3 percent of NOAA’s 2013 Arctic funding, according to the plan released Monday.

Ice Loss in the Arctic

Greenland’s ice loss nearly tripled in a decade

A formerly stable part of Greenland’s ice sheet in the northeast has been losing ice at an accelerating rate.

Scientists have known Greenland’s ice sheet has been thinning for decades, but for the first time, they’ve found that’s even occurring in its northeast region that had been stable for 25 years. Since 2003, the northeast’s ice loss has nearly tripled.

“We’re seeing an acceleration of ice loss,” says study co-author Michael Bevis, professor of earth sciences at Ohio State University. “Now, there’s more ice leaving than snow arriving.” He says the rapid change in the northeast region “surprised everyone.”

The decline of Greenland’s ice sheet, which is second in size only to Antarctica’s and covers 80% of Greenland’s surface, has been a major contributor to global sea level rise over the past 20 years. The study, published Sunday in the journal Nature Climate Change, says it’s accounted for nearly one-sixth of annual sea level rise.

Largely because of rising air temperatures, an outlet glacier in the northeast has retreated at a pace of 12.4 miles over the past decade. That’s much faster than the Jakobshavnglacier’s retreat in southwest Greenland — 21.7 miles over the past 150 years.

How do scientists track this? They look at ice thickness measurements from four satellites as well as data from the Greenland GPS Network or GNET, which has 50 coastal stations that weigh the ice sheet like a giant bathroom scale.

They found that the northeast Greenland ice sheet started losing stability in 2003. Several particularly warm summers triggered increasing melting and calving events including several last year when chunks of ice fell from glaciers into the water.

This northeast region lost about 10 billion tons of ice per year from April 2003 to April 2012, the study says. The result is more water flowing into the oceans.

What particularly worries scientists is the impact on the rest of Greenland, because the northeast’s ice stream stretches more than 370 miles into the continent’s center and connects to the heart of its ice reservoir.

“It has the potential of significantly changing the total mass balance of the ice sheet in the near future,” says study co-author Shfaqat Abbas Khan, senior researcher at the National Space Institute at the Technical University of Denmark. He and Bevis were joined by nine scientists from three other U.S. universities, the United Kingdom, Hong Kong and the Netherlands.

Alaska vs. Government of the United States

Alaska Sues U.S. Over Its Rejection of Oil Exploration Plan (1)

March 14, 2014

Alaska sued the Obama administration over its rejection of an oil and gas exploration plan for the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge as the state seeks to determine the extent of energy resources in the area.

Alaska Governor Sean Parnell said exploration for the coastal plain of the wildlife area was mandated by a federal Alaska land conservation act. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service refused to review the plan, citing a legal opinion by the Interior Department issued in 1987 claiming provisions of the law had expired, Parnell said in a complaint filed in federal court in Anchorage, Alaska.

“It is both disappointing and disturbing that the Obama administration, which claims that it is pursuing an ‘all of the above’ energy policy, is afraid to let the people of the United States learn more about ANWR’s oil and gas resources,” Parnell, a Republican, said in a statement. “The modern technology that we are seeking to use is responsibly utilized all across the North Slope with extremely limited environmental impact, and would dramatically improve our understanding of ANWR’s resources.”

The state is proposing to study a portion of the reserve known as Area 1002, which Alaska officials said covers 3,000 square miles (4,800 square kilometers) and is less than a tenth of the entire Arctic reserve. Estimates from 30 years ago put the median volume of oil in the refuge at 10.4 billion barrels, according to the state of Alaska.

Interior Secretary

Parnell sent a letter to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell in 2013 outlining a plan for a shared $150 million effort. He offered to seek $50 million from state lawmakers, according to the lawsuit. Alaska’s plan would use advanced three-dimensional seismic imaging to find the “extent and accessibility of the significant oil and gas resources” in the coastal plain of ANWR, Parnell said.

The Fish and Wildlife Service’s regional director rejected the plan without evaluating its compliance with regulations, according to the lawsuit.

Parnell claims the U.S. has violated the federal Alaska Interest Lands Conservation Act and seeks a court order forcing the government to review the plan, blocking it from applying the expiration dates it has cited and declaring its refusal to do so as “arbitrary and capricious.”

The complaint names Jewell and the Fish and Wildlife Service as defendants. Jessica Kershaw, a spokeswoman for the Interior Department, didn’t immediately respond to an e-mail message seeking comment on the lawsuit.

The case is Alaska v. Jewel, 14-cv-00048, U.S. District Court, District of Alaska.

To contact the reporter on this story: Karen Gullo in federal court in San Francisco at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at Peter Blumberg, Andrew Dunn

Fishing in the Arctic

With ice melting, U.S. pushes for limits on fishing in Arctic Ocean

Arctic Ocean

U.S. officials are pushing for a moratorium on commercial fishing in the international waters of the Arctic Ocean. (Pew Charitable Trust International Arctic Program / February 22, 2014)

SEATTLE — U.S. officials are heading to Greenland for a three-day meeting to persuade other Arctic nations to place a moratorium on high-seas fishing in the Arctic Ocean, where climate change is melting the permanent ice cap and allowing trawlers in for the first time in human history.

The United States is proposing an agreement “that would close the international waters of the Arctic Ocean to commercial fishing until there is a good scientific foundation on which to base management of any potential fishing,” said David Benton, a member of the U.S. Arctic Research Commission, who will be part of the negotiations in Nuuk, Greenland.

The first step toward protecting the Arctic Ocean and its fish population, which has never been studied, is for the five nations bordering the body of water to reach an agreement on a moratorium. To date, the United States, Canada and Greenland are on board, but Russia and Norway have not joined in.

All coastal countries control the fisheries within 200 miles of their own coastlines. The high seas beyond that zone do not belong to any nation, are not covered by any regulations and can only be protected by international agreement.

Once the five Arctic nations are in accord on a fishing moratorium, Benton said, they would then reach out to other countries with major commercial fishing fleets, such as China, Japan and Korea, to negotiate full protection for the central Arctic Ocean.

Benton, who advises the U.S. negotiating team, said he was “cautiously optimistic” that the Arctic nations would reach agreement during the three-day meeting, which begins Monday.

“The Arctic is experiencing a fairly rapid rate of change,” said Benton, as the permanent ice melts. “That’s potentially causing large changes in the ecosystem, but we don’t understand what’s going on up there. If we want to do things right, this is the approach we should be taking.”

In 2009, the United States adopted its own Arctic Fishery Management Plan, closing American waters north of Alaska to commercial fishing until scientific research proves that the fishery is sustainable.

“What the United States did in its waters was a precautionary action that takes into account how Arctic warming is changing the ecosystem faster than science can keep up with it,” said Scott Highleyman, director of the international Arctic program for the Pew Charitable Trusts.

“There are no stock surveys or scientific assessments for fish there,” Highleyman said. “You don’t want to fish a place where you don’t know the fish population dynamics. Any time we’ve done that, it led to catastrophic overfishing.”

One example, Highleyman said, is the New England Atlantic cod fishery, which was shut down in the 1980s due to overfishing, costing 50,000 jobs.

There is much at stake in the central Arctic Ocean, of which about 1.1 million square miles are largely unregulated international waters. An open letter to the Arctic governments, signed by 2,000 scientists from around the world, notes the mysterious and fragile nature of the region.

If it is overfished, the scientists say, that will affect seals, whales and polar bears as well as the people who make the harsh region their home and rely on such creatures to feed their families.

“Until recently, the region has been covered with sea ice throughout the year, creating a physical barrier to the fisheries,” the scientists wrote. “In recent summers, however, the loss of permanent sea ice has left open water in as much as 40% of these international waters .… A commercial fishery in the central Arctic Ocean is now possible and feasible.”

Shipping Passages are not safe…in Arctic

Arctic oil shipment on rise

The supertanker “Belokamenka” serves as a floating reloading hub in the Kola bay. This photo taken when the vessel was outside Kirkenes, northern Norway.

More than one million tons more of petroleum products were shipped through the Barents Sea in 2013 than the year before.

Unlike on most other Oceans, the oil transported in the waters outside the northernmost coastline of Norway and Russia is onboard relatively new tankers. Of the 21 vessels sailing notrth of Finnmark in December, only one was older than 14 years. None of them were single-hull tankers.

Although not as big as predicted a few years ago, the transport of petroleum in the European part of the Arctic is on rise. Last year, more than 12 million tons of oil was in transit to and from the Barents Region. That is up 1,28 million tons compared with 2012.

A total of 298 tankers carried petroleum products in the Barents Sea in 2013.

Joint surveillance
It is the Vessel Traffic Service (VTS) in Vardø that is in charge of the surveillance along the coast and presents the annual statistics. The officers on duty in Vardø have formalized a good cooperation with harbor and coastal authorities in Murmansk on Russia’s Kola Peninsula. Most of the oil in transit is shipped from Murmansk where it is re-loaded to larger tankers from other vessels and rail wagons.

All vessels passing through or proceeding to and from ports and anchorages within the Barents area have to report in to the vessel traffic management information system, named Barents VTMIS

Northern Sea Route
Half a million tons of the fuel-oil, oil-condensate and LNG were transported along the Northern Sea Route, from the Barents Sea towards the Bering strait in the period from July to November. Of the 16 tankers sailing north of Siberia, nine voyages happened in October, the month when there was least sea ice. Two of the tankers come from Norway’s Mongstad refinery while one was loaded with liquid natural gas (LNG) from Statoil’s Melkøya plant on the Barents Sea coast.

Freedom for 9 Greenpeace Activists….


Greenpeace Arctic case: Russia bails nine foreigners

Greenpeace activist Camila Speziale from Argentina in court in St Petersburg, 19 Nov 13 Camila Speziale from Argentina was among those bailed

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A court in the Russian city of St Petersburg has granted bail to nine foreign nationals who were among 30 people arrested during an Arctic protest by Greenpeace.

The condition for release is a bail sum of 2m roubles (£38,000; $61,000) each, to be paid within the next four days.

The released activists come from Argentina, Brazil, Canada, France, Finland, Italy, New Zealand and Poland.

On Monday, the court granted bail to three Russians from the group of 30.

But Greenpeace expressed caution about what the terms of the bail would be.

“We still have no idea what conditions our friends will endure when they are released from jail, whether they will be held under house arrest or even allowed outside,” Greenpeace’s Kumi Naidoo said in a statement.

The 28 Greenpeace activists and two journalists were arrested after a protest at a Russian offshore oil rig in the Arctic two months ago.

Their ship, the Arctic Sunrise, was seized by armed security men.

The rest of the group are due to face similar hearings this week. Six Britons are among the 30.

A separate court has extended the pre-trial detention of an Australian activist, Colin Russell, for a further three months.

The 30 were originally charged with piracy, but Russian authorities dropped those charges and replaced them with hooliganism, which carries a lesser prison sentence.

The nine bailed on Tuesday were named as: Miguel Orsi (Argentina), Camila Speziale (Argentina), Ana Paula Maciel (Brazil), Paul Ruzycki (Canada), Sini Saarela (Finland), Francesco Pisanu (France), Cristian D’Alessandro (Italy), David Haussman (New Zealand) and Tomasz Dziemianczuk (Poland).