The Arctic This Week - News for January 22 - 29, 2012

News for January 22-29, 2012


In oil and gas, Rosneft makes continuing efforts to establish a diverse and lucrative portfolio in the Arctic with the government’s granting of prospecting licenses for the Tsentralno-Barentsev, Perseevsky and Fedynsky areas in the Barents Sea. Estimates of potential range up to approximately 600bn barrels of oil equivalents. (Barents Observer) Fellow Russians Lukoil invested $1.3 billion in the existent Titov and Trebs fields in the Nenets okrug (Bloomberg), while Gazprom and SovComFlot are working towards further exploration of the Northern Sea Route as a shipping corridor for LNG to Asian markets. (Bloomberg)

Statoil has been much in the news. It increased its estimates of recoverable gas in the Snohvit field to 210 billion cubic meters (Dow Jones) and made another discovery in the Barents on a smaller scale (up to 300mn boe). ( Statoil also acquired a portion of Cairn Energy’s exploration license off of Greenland in Baffin Bay, which Cairn has had no luck with (Business Week), while negotiating tax breaks from the Russian government for its joint-venture (with Total and Gazprom) Shtokman project. (Business Week) A second Norwegian oil company, Det Norske, has also entered the Barents with the purchase of a production license. (Barents Observer) Meanwhile, Norway’s recent licensing round has intentionally gone mostly to smaller firms (Reuters), and the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate has decided to send two vessels to conduct seismic acquisition in the Barents from May to August this year, at a cost of 22mn Euro. (Barents Observer)

In the Canadian Arctic, the National Energy Board will require companies that wish to produce to maintain same-season relief well-drilling capability (Petroleum Economist), while the Edmonton Journal has floated the idea of using the Slave River and Fort Simpson as an alternative exit route (to Keystone XL and Northern Gateway pipelines) for oil from the tar sands. (Edmonton Journal)


Three Russian nuclear icebreakers are headed for the scrap heap in 2012 (Barents Observer), and Reuters published a great piece on the prospects for shipping via the Northeastern route. (Reuters)


Perhaps adding solidity to a framework for Arctic security policy, the US and Canada are in the final stages of negotiating a Combined Defence Plan, integrating military cooperation for North American defense. (Edmonton Journal) Simultaneously, Canadian forces are preparing for trial exercises in the Yukon. (CBC) This is a probably a good thing for Canada’s perpetual struggle to maintain a physical presence in the Arctic, as the news that 30 percent of its Coast Guard workforce is expected to depart by 2015 cannot be welcome. (Ottawa Citizen)


Snowy owls are flying south in record numbers, (NYT) including an unfortunate stray to Hawaii. (Honolulu Star-Advertiser), while polar bears are eating more eider duck eggs to compensate for the loss of hunting grounds on the ice. (CBC)

Meanwhile, the Amundsen, a Coast Guard cutter outfitted for science which is the centerpiece of Canada’s Arctic science research and main character in Martin Fortier’s (executive director of ArcticNet) presentation at the Arctic Frontiers conference in Tromso, Norway last week, went out of service for repairs two 4 of 6 engines in Quebec this week. (Ottawa Citizen) It’s a shame, as it might have told us more about the upwelling and shifting of a huge freshwater bulge in the Arctic which, if it left Arctic waters, could influence European weather. (BBC)

In the continuing tale of things that would have seemed impossible 50 years ago, work at the Norwegian Marine Technology Research Institute is exploring the possibility of underwater drilling rigs, serviced by submarines, to circumvent arctic weather (The Australian), and enthusiasm for the possibility of telecom cables beneath the Arctic Ocean connecting Europe directly to Asia was in evidence at the Pacific Telecommunications Council conference in Hawaii. (Foreign Policy Blogs)


Former US interior secretary Bruce Babbitt came out strongly in an opinion piece against a recent federal decision on Conoco Phillips's drilling plans in Alaska. (Washington Post) Simultaneously, the US’ National Ocean Council released a draft of a new National Ocean Policy, with some fuzzy thoughts on the Arctic. (

Meanwhile, we see that the resource curse is not necessarily a strictly developing-world issue. In Lapland, the Minister of International Development said that mining companies are taking advantage of minerals (in particular, nickel) without contributing to local development. (Barents Observer) Similarly, Canadian PM David Harper met with representatives of Canada’s first peoples for a contentious discussion of future education policy and revenue-sharing agreements. (Globe and Mail) Those groups would like more say on mining reviews that affect them. (Eye on the Arctic)

In the saga of China’s attempt to gain permanent observer status to the Arctic Council, it looks as though bad blood over a Nobel might encourage Norway to block. (Guardian)

In Sweden, employers are desperate for workers in the far north. (Radio Sweden


Dates for the topless tobogganing championships (17 March) in Laukvik, Norway have been announced. (The Local)

Alaska Representative Kyle Johansen proposed a federal takeover of Central Park as a wilderness area, in order to highlight what he feels is federal overreach regarding protection of ANWR. (Anchorage Daily News)

The Arctic Games begin in Whitehorse, Canada on Sunday 4 March.

Posted Sunday, January 29, 2012 by Tom Fries