TNK-BP moves closer to Russian arctic

MOSCOW, March 7 (UPI) – original article here
Anglo-Russian energy venture TNK-BP could join Rosneft and Gazprom in developing the Russian arctic shelf if terms are good, the Russian prime minister said.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said TNK-BP might be able to persuade its oil and natural gas colleagues to tap into more domestic natural resources if the terms are favorable to all parties involved.

“There is a law, under which we have entrusted Rosneft and Gazprom with work on the shelf,” Putin was quoted by Russia’s official RIA-Novosti news agency as saying. “If TNK-BP offers suitable terms of joint work to one of the companies it can (join the project). Why not?”

TNK-BP, a joint venture between a group of Russian billionaires and BP, is at odds with the British supermajor and Rosneft over an asset swap that included exploration deals in the Russian arctic.

BP in January agreed to pay Rosneft more than $8 billion in shares for a 9.5 percent stake in the Russian energy company in addition to a development agreement for the Kara Sea on Russian’s northern continental shelf.

Putin brushed off the historic rival between TNK-BP and its London counterpart by noting any rivalry is an internal matter for each company to address.

“These are their problems, they must solve them between themselves,” he said.

Mårhund shot in Kautokeino

NRK picture gallery here
Via NRK – original article (in sami) here
NRK finnmark has an article in norwegian now, here
March 8th 2011 – NRK Sami Radio reports that a Mårhund (Raccoon dog, Nyctereutes procyonoides) has been shot in Kautokeino last saturday. The raccoon dog was radiotagged and had come to Norway from Sweden. It is 3 years since the last time a raccoon dog has been reported shot in Finnmark.

The mårhund or raccoon dog is unwanted in Norway, since it carries pests and diseases and is omnivorous. Raccoon dogs would quickly decimate bird populations if allowed to live in Norway.
There is no hunting licence or law applying to raccoon dogs, and hunters are asked to shoot on site when they see a raccoon dog.

Jonas Qvale/Hornorkesteret

Alaska Oil And Gas Association Sues Feds Claiming Polar Bear Protected Habitat Too Large

DAN JOLING  Huffington Post Original article here

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — An Alaska petroleum industry trade group has sued the federal government over its designation of 187,157 square miles as polar bear critical habitat, claiming it covers too much territory and could cost tens of millions or more in economic effects.

The Alaska Oil and Gas Association sued Tuesday in Anchorage.

“This is an area larger that 48 of the 50 states, exceeding the size of the State of California by nearly 25,000 square miles,” association attorneys said in the lawsuit.

The designation is unprecedented – the largest area set aside in the history of the Endangered Species Act – and was done for an animal that is abundant, with 20,000 to 25,000 animals in 19 subpopulations, according to the group.

AOGA represents 15 companies that account for most oil and gas exploration, production, refining and marketing in Alaska. The group claims there is no evidence of an overall decline in the global polar bear population or its historical range.

That’s disputed by the Center for Biological Diversity, which petitioned to list bears.

“AOGA’s suit is premised on the fiction that polar bear populations are stable,” said attorney Brendan Cummings in an e-mail.

The two best-studied populations, western Hudson Bay and Southern Beaufort Sea, are known to be declining, he said. The polar bear specialist group of the International Union for Conservation of Nature lists eight of the world’s 19 subpopulations of polar bears as “declining,” including both of Alaska’s. Seven other subpopulations are listed as “data deficient” for making the call.

A U.S. Geological Survey model prepared before the listing suggested a better than 50 percent chance that polar bears will be extinct in Alaska’s Beaufort and Chukchi seas under the minimum sea ice model run by 2030. The USGS later noted its projections of sea ice decline appeared to be underestimated.

Putin says BP can help develop arctic oil

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin greets the audience at the United Russia party's congress in St. Petersburg on November 21, 2009.UPI/Anatoli Zhdanov

MOSCOW, March 5 (UPI) -Original article here
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said an oil partnership TNK-BP may help develop Kara Sea oil fields if agreeable terms are offered to Russian companies. 

“There is a law, under which we have entrusted Rosneft and Gazprom with work on the (Arctic) shelf. If TNK-BP offers suitable terms of joint work to one of the companies, it can (participate), why not?” Putin said, RIA Novosti reported Saturday.

Three reserve fields in the Kara Sea, East Prinovozemelsk 1, 2 and 3, are estimated to hold 5 billion tons of oil and 10 trillion cubic meters of natural gas.

British petroleum giant BP agreed in January to a deal valued at more than $8 billion to buy 9.5 percent of Rosneft and participate in Kara Sea development. But TNK-BP shareholders said the deal violated a previous agreement with BP to have all deals in Russia funneled through them.

Putin said BP claimed the agreement was “not absolute and universal, saying they work, for instance, on Sakhalin without TNK, and they hope to solve the conflict amicably or find a compromise.”

Putin said if they did not reach an agreement, it would be up to the courts to sort through the disagreement.

 

Penguin Colony in the Antarctic Disappears

Softpedia News, March 5th, 2011 Original article here

Map 2: Emperor Island, Dion Islands, ASPA No. 107: topographic map. Map specifications: Projection: Lambert Conformal Conic; Standard parallels: 1st 67° 0' 00" W; 2nd 68° 00' 00"S; Central Meridian: 68° 42' 30" W; Latitude of Origin: 68° 00' 00" S; Spheroid: WGS84; Datum: Mean sea level. Horizontal accuracy: ± 1.5 m; Vertical accuracy ±1 m (best accuracy of the control points); Vertical contour interval 5 m (index contour interval 15m).

Biologists have documented the first instance of what they call the global warming-induced disappearance of an animal colony. The experts can no longer find even the smallest traces of a small colony of penguins that once lived on an island off the coasts of Antarctica.

It has been proposed a long time ago that penguins would be among the most affected species when climate change finally struck, right alongside other ice-dependent animals, like polar bears.

But no one documented an actual case of that happening until now. Experts believe that the emperor penguin colony disappeared because of dwindling sea ices around their home island.

The island in question is located off the West Antarctic Peninsula, which is one of the areas that lost the most ice due to the warming climate. Without the shelfs to provide them with support and food, the penguins most likely could not secure enough to eat.

When the Emperor Island colony was first discovered in 1948, it featured about 150 breeding pairs of penguins. An 1978 report showed a sharp decline in numbers, while a 2009 aerial survey found the entire island deserted.

One of the biggest unknowns in this study is whether the penguins died off, or just relocated to a more hospitable environment, says lead researcher Philip Trathan. He holds an appointment as a conservation biologist as the British Antarctic Survey (BAS), LiveScience reports.

An explanation could be that fewer and fewer emperor penguins returned to this location over the years. The animals live for about 20 years, and they tend to return yearly to the site where they hatched.

Over time, it could be that more and more parents from the Emperor Island colony laid their eggs elsewhere. As such, the new generation did not return to the former colony, because they did not know where it was, and had no connection to it.

On the other hand, the researchers did find a connection to climate change and rising temperatures. “The one site in Antarctica where we have seen really big changes is the West Antarctic Peninsula,” Trathan explains in the February 28 issue of the journal PLoS ONE.

Ices in this region were observed over the past two decades forming about 54 days later than normal, and melting some 31 days earlier. This may have also contributed to the decline of the penguin colony. These birds are completely reliant on ice for most of their activities.

The BAS team admits that more studies are required to establish a clear cause for the penguins’ disappearance. “We need to look at more colonies so we can reduce the uncertainty. With the first report, there is a high degree of uncertainty,” the BAS team leader concludes.

Greenland’s Inuit Premier defends oil and gas drilling

Gloria Galloway, Ottawa, The Globe and Mail
Published Wednesday, Feb. 23, 2011 – Original article here

The Inuit Premier of Greenland is passionate in defending the need to develop his country’s oil and gas potential – a stance that puts him at odds with Canadian Inuit groups, which have tried to block offshore drilling near their communities.

Kuupik Kleist was one of the speakers at a two-day summit of Inuit leaders who met this week to discuss resource development. Mr. Kleist said Wednesday that there will be oil and gas extraction in and around Greenland and the Inuit want to dictate its terms. Here is what he said in response to questions from reporters; the questions have been edited and the answers trimmed.

More related to this story

Many Inuit and environmentalists in Nunavut argue that any oil and gas exploration could damage a fragile ecosystem. How do you respond to those concerns?

We have a co-operation with the Canadian government on the issue of protection of the environment [as it relates to] the oil industry. And we have that co-operation because of the Canadian experience, which we don’t have … both within the mineral sector and within the oil industry for years. And what we’re looking at is to gain from the experiences, not only from Canada but also from Norway, for instance, which is regarded as an upscale developer of technology.

I have had a dialogue with the Minister for the Environment in Canada who was, in the outset, very concerned about the exploratory drillings off the Greenland west coast. What happened during our dialogue was that now Canadian employees are on the drilling sites off the west coast of Greenland to learn about security.

Do you feel that the oil and gas industry is safe?

You can never ensure 100 per cent that nothing will happen. You have to be honest facing the risks. … [But] companies from the outside have been exploiting natural resources in the Arctic area for centuries now. The Inuit didn’t. Now it’s our turn. It seems like now gradually the peoples of the Arctic are taking over powers then suddenly it becomes much more dangerous, risky and what else you might come up with. You see the environmental groups coming now to the Arctic area and trying to hinder activities conducted by indigenous governments in the Arctic. Why didn’t they do that, like, 100 years ago, 50 years ago, or even just 15 years ago? Now, with technology developed, it’s much safer today than it was before.

Do you think the unrest in Libya and other places in the Middle East will put even more focus on oil exploration in Greenland?

Of course. We are now a full part of the global economy. We cannot hide away or shy away from looking at what’s happening on the rest of the globe. We are a part of it and we need to face that and we have to take precautions according to what happens on the market.

The Greenland ice shelf is melting at an increasing rate. This presents challenges, but does it also hold some potential?

It’s not the fault of Greenland that the ice is melting. Nobody believes that by tomorrow the need for fossil fuels will disappear just because of the ice melting. If Greenland should stay away from exploiting its mineral resources, some other place on the Earth will do it, that’s for sure. But we are doing it under the strongest precautions, we are sticking to best practices, we are sticking to the best available technology and you cannot be sure that the rest of the world would do that.

Is there potential for confrontation between companies and Inuit groups for control of resources?

Of course. That’s not new. That’s always existed. The change that’s been going on is that now we have the insight, we have the powers, we negotiate ourselves. We don’t allow federal governments just to hand over Inuit lands to companies to exploit the mineral resources. It’s in our hands. We need to face all of the challenges that are connected with that kind of activity. The difference is that it’s now us sitting at the end of the table, and of course the confrontations, wherever they might be, we need to face them.

Russia Embraces Offshore Arctic Drilling

By ANDREW E. KRAMER and CLIFFORD KRAUSS Published: February 15, 2011 in the New York Times – Original article here

The Prirazlomnaya oil platform was brought to the Arctic seaport of Murmansk, 906 miles north of Moscow, to be adjusted.

MOSCOW — The Arctic Ocean is a forbidding place for oil drillers. But that is not stopping Russia from jumping in — or Western oil companies from eagerly following.

Russia, where onshore oil reserves are slowly dwindling, last month signed an Arctic exploration deal with the British petroleum giant BP, whose offshore drilling prospects in the United States were dimmed by the Gulf of Mexico disaster last year. Other Western oil companies, recognizing Moscow’s openness to new ocean drilling, are now having similar discussions with Russia.

New oil from Russia could prove vital to world supplies in coming decades, now that it has surpassed Saudi Arabia as the world’s biggest oil producer, and as long as global demand for oil continues to rise.

But as the offshore Russian efforts proceed, the oil companies will be venturing where other big countries ringing the Arctic Ocean — most notably the United States and Canada — have been wary of letting oil field development proceed, for both safety and environmental reasons.

After the BP accident in the gulf last year highlighted the consequences of a catastrophic ocean spill, American and Canadian regulators focused on the special challenges in the Arctic.

The ice pack and icebergs pose various threats to drilling rigs and crews. And if oil were spilled in the winter, cleanup would take place in the total darkness that engulfs the region during those months.

Earlier this month, Royal Dutch Shell postponed plans for drilling off Alaska’s Arctic coast, as the company continued to face hurdles from wary Washington regulators.

The Russians, who control far more prospective drilling area in the Arctic Ocean than the United States and Canada combined, take a far different view.

As its Siberian oil fields mature, daily output in Russia, without new development, could be reduced by nearly a million barrels by the year 2035, according to the International Energy Agency. With its economy dependent on oil and gas, which make up about 60 percent of all exports, Russia sees little choice but to go offshore — using foreign partners to provide expertise and share the billions of dollars in development costs.

And if anything, the gulf disaster encouraged Russia to push ahead with BP as its first partner. In the view of Russia’s prime minister, Vladimir V. Putin, BP is the safest company to hire for offshore work today, having learned its lesson in the gulf.

“One beaten man is worth two unbeaten men,” Mr. Putin said, citing a Russian proverb, after BP signed its Arctic deal with Rosneft, the Russian state-owned oil company. The joint venture calls for the companies to explore three sections in the Kara Sea, an icebound coastal backwater north of central Russia.

The BP agreement touched off little public reaction in Russia, in part because the environmental movement is weak but also because opposition politicians have no way to block or hinder the process.

The Arctic holds one-fifth of the world’s undiscovered, recoverable oil and natural gas, the United States Geological Survey estimates. According to a 2009 report by the Energy Department, 43 of the 61 significant Arctic oil and gas fields are in Russia. The Russian side of the Arctic is particularly rich in natural gas, while the North American side is richer in oil.

While the United States and Canada balk, other countries are clearing Arctic space for the industry. Norway, which last year settled a territorial dispute with Russia, is preparing to open new Arctic areas for drilling.

Last year Greenland, which became semi-autonomous from Denmark in 2009, allowed Cairn Energy to do some preliminary drilling. Cairn, a Scottish company, is planning four more wells this year, while Exxon MobilChevron and Shell are also expected to drill in the area over the next few years.

But of the five countries with Arctic Ocean coastline, Russia has the most at stake in exploring and developing the region.

“Russia is one of the fundamental building blocks in world oil supply,” said Daniel Yergin, the oil historian and chairman of IHS Cambridge Energy Research Associates. “It has a critical role in the global energy balance. The Arctic will be one of the critical factors in determining how much oil Russia is producing in 15 years and exporting to the rest of the world.”

Following the template of the BP deal, Rosneft is negotiating joint venture agreements with other major oil companies shut out of North America and intent on exploring the Arctic continental shelf off Russia’s northern coast. That includes Shell, its chief executive said last month. Rosneft’s chief executive, Eduard Y. Khudainatov, said other foreign oil company representatives were lining up outside his office these days.

Artur N. Chilingarov, a polar explorer, has embodied Moscow’s sweeping Arctic ambitions ever since he rode in a minisubmarine and placed a Russian flag on the bottom of the ocean under the North Pole, claiming it for Russia, in a 2007 expedition.

“The future is on the shelf,” Mr. Chilingarov, a member of Russia’s Parliament, the Duma, said in an interview. “We already pumped the land dry.”

Russia has been a dominant Arctic oil power since the Soviet Union began making important discoveries in the land-based Tazovskoye field on the shore of the Ob Bay in Siberia in 1962. The United States was not far behind with the discovery of the shallow-water Prudhoe Bay field in Alaska five years later.

What is new is the move offshore.

The waters of the Arctic are particularly perilous for drilling because of the extreme cold, long periods of darkness, dense fogs and hurricane-strength winds. Pervasive ice cover for eight to nine months out of the year can block relief ships in case of a blowout. And, as environmentalists note, whales, polar bears and other species depend on the region’s fragile habitats.

Such concerns have blocked new drilling in Alaska’s Arctic waters since 2003, despite a steep decline in oil production in the state and intensive lobbying by oil companies.

In Canada, Arctic offshore drilling is delayed as the National Energy Board is reviewing its regulations after the gulf spill.

Mr. Chilingarov placed a Russian flag on the bottom of the ocean under the North Pole, claiming the area for Russia, in a 2007 polar expedition.

But Russia is pressing ahead. The central decision opening the Russian Arctic easily passed Parliament in 2008, as an amendment to a law on subsoil resources. It allowed the ministry of natural resources to transfer offshore blocks to state-controlled oil companies in a no-bid process that does not involve detailed environmental reviews.

Until recently Russia regarded the Kara Sea, where BP and Rosneft intend to drill, as primarily an icy dump. For years, the Soviet navy released nuclear waste into the sea, including several spent submarine reactors that were dropped overboard at undisclosed locations.

Rosneft executives say their exploration drilling will not stir up radiation.

But in any case, Mr. Chilingarov, the advocate for Russian polar claims, said a little radiation was nothing to worry about. He said that his son was born on Novaya Zemlya, an Arctic testing site for nuclear weapons during the cold war, and is now “a bit taller than me.”

“In small doses,” Mr. Chilingarov said, “radiation is good for growth.”

Andrew E. Kramer reported from Moscow and Clifford Krauss from Houston.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: February 19, 2011
A chart on Wednesday with an article about Russia’s eagerness to drill for oil in the Arctic Ocean gave an incorrect unit of measurement for estimates of natural gas reserves in the region. The shaded areas in the chart are believed to hold more than 100 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, not cubic tons. The unit of measurement was correct in an online version of the chart, available at nytimes.com/business.