Earlier we wrote about the Arctic becoming the new hydrocarbon frontier as the countries surrounding this region attempt to lay claim to the vast oil and natural gas resources that seemingly lay there under the ocean.  Russia has been quite aggressive so far claiming a large area of the Arctic as its own and preparing to send its military there to defend it.   (See also Russia Pushes To Claim Arctic As Its Own from National Public Radio.)

Russia, Canada, the United States, Denmark and Norway own Arctic coasts.  In the absence of a regional agreement, tensions are mounting.

Now we find out that the Russian energy giant, Gazprom, is towing an oil rig to the Arctic circle. The purpose is to put in place a pilot project for exploratory drilling in the Arctic shelf.  Gazprom estimates that the reserves at the Prirazlomnoye oil field in the Pechora Sea are about  527 million barrels or 43 million barrels worth of production per year.

Critics of oil and natural gas exploration in Arctic waters are worried about the potential impact of a major oil spill.  The environmental group, Greenpeace, has tried to disrupt drilling by the British firm, Cairn Energy, in the Arctic off Greenland to protest its concern about potential damage to ocean life.

Sometime in the next year Russia is expected to go to the United Nations to present its claim to annex about 380,000 square miles of the internationally owned Arctic to Russian control.  According to the Christian Science Monitor:

At stake is an estimated one-quarter of all the world’s untapped hydrocarbon reserves, abundant fisheries, and a freshly opened route that will cut nearly a third off the shipping time from Asia to Europe.

Russia and Norway recently ended a 44-year dispute over division of the Barents Sea, which borders the Arctic Ocean, in an agreement that could set a prece­dent for an overall Arctic deal. Under the treaty, the two countries will split a 67,500 square mile area, thought to contain 7 billion tons of oil and gas, and open it up for joint exploration.

UPDATE

OILPRICE says that tensions are building over Arctic riches. This includes the potential for armed conflict.

People will and can fight. Recent examples include Norway’s foreign minister being quoted as saying regular military flights by the Russians up and down Norway’s coast had helped to justify the purchase of four new F-35 Joint Strike Fighter combat aircraft to the Norwegian public. Meanwhile, the head of the Russian navy is quoted as saying “one cannot exclude that in the future there will be a redistribution of power, up to armed intervention.”

 

 

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