Newfoundland to see influx of bergs as giant Arctic ice island breaks up

Ottawa Citizen – Original article here
Deana Stokes Sullivan, Postmedia News May 24, 2011

This NASA Earth Observatory image shows the ice island that calved off the Petermann Glacier in northwestern Greenland on August 5, 2010 Photograph by: AFP Photo, Handout

A huge floating island of ice that broke off the Petermann Glacier near Greenland last August could add some excitement this summer during Newfoundland and Labrador’s tourist season.

“It’s tracking pretty close to Labrador. Our best estimate is it’s probably going to ground up there and break up,” says Charles Randell, president and chief executive officer of C-Core, a Newfoundland research and development company with ice engineering expertise.

Icebergs from the fractured ice island are expected to appear off Newfoundland’s Northern Peninsula toward the second half of July and into August. If they don’t break up or melt, they’ll make the usual trek around the province’s coastline.

That’s a bit later than the normal iceberg season, but coincides with the province’s prime tourist season, “so it should be a good year for iceberg tourism,” Randell said.

The Petermann glacier generated a lot of interest last year when it calved what started out as a 251-square-kilometre ice island. Recently, it was estimated to be smaller, at about 64 square kilometres.

Randell said icebergs are a regular occurrence, but ice islands — very large tabular icebergs like this one — are a bit of an anomaly, so C-Core’s engineers and researchers take advantage of any opportunity to learn more about them by tracking them, analyzing their melt rates and probability of breaking up.

It could just stay off Labrador and melt, Randell said, but most likely it will break up into more conventional icebergs “and give us more of the sorts of things that we’re used to seeing here.”

C-Core has been involved with tracking icebergs using satellite imagery for about 14 years. It’s a partner in an iceberg tracking website, www.icebergfinder.com, with Hospitality Newfoundland and Labrador, the provincial Department of Tourism, Culture and Recreation and the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency.

Most of the iceberg sightings published on the website have originated from space, using satellite data provided by the Canadian Space Agency and European Space Agency and technology to locate icebergs off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador.

© Copyright (c) St. John’s Telegram

Retreating Arctic ice opens way to resources

By Joby Warrick and Juliet Eilperin
Washington Post
Updated: 05/21/2011 10:01:51 PM CDT
Original article here

Retreating Arctic ice has made Greenland's western coast accessible for oil exploration and drilling, which has created competition among rival nations. (Washington Post: Joby Warrick)

NUUK, Greenland – Here, just south of the Arctic Circle, where the sea ice is vanishing like dew on a July morning, the temperature isn’t the only thing that’s heating up.

Across the region, a warming Arctic is opening up new competition for resources that until recently were out of reach, protected under a thick layer of ice. As glaciers defrost and ice floes diminish, the North is being viewed as a source of not only great wealth but also conflict, diplomats and policy experts say.

In recent months, oil companies have begun lining up for exploration rights to Baffin Bay, a hydrocarbon-rich region on Greenland’s western coast that until recently was too ice-choked for drilling. U.S. and Canadian diplomats have reopened a spat over navigation rights to a sea route through the Canadian Arctic that could cut shipping time and costs for long-haul tankers.

Even ownership of the North Pole has come into dispute, as Russia and Denmark pursue rival claims to the underlying seabed in hopes of locking up access to everything from fisheries to natural-gas deposits.

The intense rivalry over Arctic development was highlighted in diplomatic cables released recently by the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks. Messages between U.S. diplomats revealed how northern nations, including the United States and Russia, have been maneuvering to ensure access to shipping lanes as well as undersea oil and gas deposits that are estimated to contain up to 25 percent of the world’s untapped reserves.

In the cables, U.S. officials worried that bickering over resources might even lead to an arming of the Arctic.

“While in the Arctic there is peace and stability, however, one cannot exclude that in the future there will be a redistribution of power, up to armed intervention,” a 2009 State Department cable quoted a Russian ambassador as saying.

Concern over competition in the Arctic was partly behind an extraordinary diplomatic gathering recently in Greenland’s tiny capital Nuuk. This year’s meeting of the eight-nation Arctic Council drew seven foreign ministers, including Russia’s Sergey Lavrov and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, the highest-ranking U.S. diplomat to attend an Arctic Council session. Accompanying Clinton was a second U.S. Cabinet member, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.

Clinton and her aides sought to call attention to climate change during the visit, highlighting new studies that show Arctic ice melting far more rapidly than scientists had believed. But Clinton also promoted a message of international cooperation in the Arctic.

“The challenges in the region are not just environmental,” Clinton said in Nuuk following talks with her Danish counterpart, Lene Espersen. “The melting of sea ice, for example, will result in more shipping, fishing and tourism, and the possibility to develop newly accessible oil and gas reserves. We seek to pursue these opportunities in a smart, sustainable way that preserves the Arctic environment and ecosystem.”

Clinton’s presence at the Nuuk meeting was intended to show U.S. support for the Arctic Council as a critical forum for cooperation and to resolve conflicts. With strong backing from the Obama administration, the council approved the first legally binding treaty in its history, a pact that sets the rules for maritime search and rescue in the region. Although modest in scope, the treaty, authored mainly by Russia and the United States, was hailed as a template for future agreements on issues ranging from oil-spill cleanup to territorial disputes.

Significantly, the eight member nations voted to establish a permanent secretariat to the council, to be located in Tronso, Norway. Clinton asserted that the region’s powers must recognize the council as the “preeminent intergovernmental body, where we can solve shared problems and pursue shared opportunities.”

“The opportunities for economic development in the Arctic must be weighed against the need to protect its environment and ecosystems. And governments will not always see eye to eye on how to achieve this balance,” Clinton said. “That’s why this council is so important.”

In the diplomatic cables obtained by WikiLeaks, there was no dispute about rapid warming under way. The predominant questions revolved around how the region’s newly accessible resources would be carved up.

Arctic oil drill splits Norway’s government

Euractiv.com 14 March 2011 -original article here

Norway’s Labour-led coalition government is preparing for crisis talks after one of its parties, the Socialist Left (SV), pledged to hold out against oil drilling in the pristine Lofoten region.

The oil industry views the untapped waters around the Lofoten and Vesteraalen islands as one of the best remaining prospects off Norway, the world’s fifth biggest oil exporter, whose output has fallen by a third in the past decade. But Norway’s green and socialist movements oppose oil and gas activities in the region, which is home to Europe’s largest cod stock and unique cold water reefs.

A decision on whether to order an impact assessment study for drilling in Lofoten – the most divisive issue in Norwegian politics – is due within weeks. On March 9, Labour MPs asked Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg to negotiate a way out of the stalemate with SV, possibly by changing the study’s name or tweaking its scope. But the Socialists rejected this. “We can’t accept any study that leads to opening the region for oil and gas activities,” SV’s energy spokesman Snorre Valen told Reuters. “We simply won’t compromise on this.”

Oil industry pressure
The ruling coalition has survived for six years, partly by delaying decisions on the Lofotens. But pressure from the oil industry, trades unions and some local people is forcing Labour to move on the issue. The SV environment minister Erik Solheim played down the chances of a government collapse to the Aftenposten newspaper.

“The government has for the past six years shown a phenomenal ability to survive. We have like Lazarus risen from the dead, and several times at that,” he was reported saying. Norway’s oil row comes as a report by the US National Academy of Sciences warns of a new struggle for oil and gas resources in the Arctic by 2030. Melting ice cover due to climate change will upset the Arctic power balance and intensify unresolved disputes among countries with Arctic borders. These include Norway, the US, Canada, Denmark, Russia, Iceland, Sweden and Finland.

“The geopolitical situation in the Arctic region has become complex and nuanced, despite the area being essentially ignored since the end of the Cold War,” the study says. It predicts a low chance of conflict but cautions that that “co-operation in the Arctic should not be considered a given even among close allies.”

(EurActiv with Reuters.)

Background

The resource-rich Arctic is becoming increasingly contentious as climate change endangers many species of the region’s flora and fauna but also makes the region more navigable. Up to 25% of the planet’s undiscovered oil and gas could be located there, according to the US Geological Survey.

No country owns the North Pole or the region of the Arctic surrounding it. The surrounding Arctic states of the USA, Canada, Russia, Norway and Denmark (Greenland) have a 200 nautical mile economic zone around their coasts.

In August 2007, a Russian icebreaker reached the North Pole and a Russian mini-submarine planted a titanium Russian flag on the seabed there. The move was widely interpreted as a bellicose claim by Russia to the North Pole seabed and its resources.

Norway covers between 10 and 18% of EU oil demand and about 15% of its natural gas. The country, a member of the European Economic Area since 1994, is the world’s third largest exporter of oil and gas after Saudi Arabia and Russia.

By 2015-2020, natural gas deliveries from Norway to the EU are expected to grow from 85 billion cubic metres to 120 bcm, covering 7-9% of the EU’s entire gas consumption by 2020.

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.

Dispute over Hans Island nears resolution. Now for the Beaufort Sea

JILL MAHONEY
From Tuesday’s Globe and Mail
Published Tuesday, Jan. 25, 2011

Original article here

Negotiators are now confident that Canada and Denmark will resolve their dispute over Hans Island, and sooner rather than later.

Relations between the two countries have grown irritable at times in recent years because of their competing claims to the barren bit of rock perched halfway between Ellesmere Island and Greenland. Also in dispute is a patch of the Lincoln Sea even farther north.

But the two countries are in negotiations and have embarked on a joint mapping exercise, and both Canadian and Danish officials, speaking on background, said they were confident of reaching an agreement before Canada deposits its claim over the Arctic seabed to the United Nations in 2013.

Shared jurisdiction of the island is one possibility; another is running the border down the middle of the uninhabited, 1.3-square-kilometre knoll, which would give Canada a land border with Denmark.

In a recent poll, a large majority of Canadians said that asserting and protecting Arctic sovereignty should be Canada’s foremost foreign policy priority. In a statement to The Globe and Mail, Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon insisted that it was.

“We continue to exercise our sovereignty in the Arctic while also making progress on outstanding boundary issues,” Mr. Cannon said.

In fact, negotiations are beginning to bear fruit after years in which Canada refused to discuss competing claims. The United States and Canada have long disagreed over where the border between Alaska and Yukon should be drawn, as it projects into the Beaufort Sea. While the Americans have sought a negotiated settlement, Canada preferred to agree to disagree.

But there is oil under the seabed, and petroleum companies are anxious to get at it. Last year, the Conservative government declared its willingness to reach a deal. The two countries have embarked on a joint mapping expedition of the ocean floor.

That exercise may not be completed until 2013, because the ice is too thick for much of the year, and a Canadian government official speaking on background said it might not be possible to complete an agreement until after then. In the meantime, a bilateral “dialogue of experts” is underway, with the next meeting scheduled for Washington in the spring.

Some Arctic-watchers believe the slow pace of the talks over the Beaufort is frustrating an impatient Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

“The people at Foreign Affairs already have very full plates,” said Michael Byers, a political scientist at the University of British Columbia who specializes in Arctic issues. “They don’t see the urgency of negotiations now when a solution probably isn’t doable this year or even next year. So you have this tension between the Prime Minister’s Office, which wants to see progress, and the department, which doesn’t see it as a top priority.”

But Canadians officials maintained the pace had been agreed to with the American government. The Americans and Canadians “are committed to a win-win” agreement that satisfies both sides that their interests have been protected, one official said.

The U.S. government agrees. “Our technical teams have held productive meetings on the Beaufort boundary in the past,” the embassy said in a statement. “We look forward to continued discussions in the future.”

The nations that encircle the Arctic have agreed, under the Law of the Sea convention, to submit their claims over what they believe is their fair share of the Arctic seabed to the United Nations for arbitration. Canada’s deadline is 2013.

The UN will not arbitrate in areas where there is a border dispute, and an agreement over the Beaufort border is unlikely before 2014. But officials say this is only a minor impediment, especially since the U.S. hasn’t ratified the treaty anyway.

As for the biggest dispute of all, who controls the Northwest Passage, none of the players has even agreed to talk about it, and no resolution to the question of whether it is in Canadian or international waters is expected in the foreseeable future.

Canada to get tough with Greenland over Arctic drilling: environment minister


(Shannon Montgomery/Canadian Press via Metro News Halifax, 20 May 2010) — CALGARY – Environment Minister Jim Prentice says he will demand the highest environmental standards be followed as Greenland explores offshore oil drilling just outside of Canada’s territorial waters. Prentice said he’ll make Canada’s position very clear at a meeting of Arctic countries next month. “We certainly want to be sure that the highest possible environmental standards are being followed and we intend to make our views known,” he said at an event in Calgary. “Obviously drilling offshore wells in the Arctic environment, particularly deep wells, is something that we are concerned about. Greenland recently accepted bids to drill in Baffin Bay near the mouth of Lancaster Sound, which is close to where Canada hopes to establish a marine conservation area. The territory hopes to drill along thousands of kilometres of the maritime border it shares with Canada starting this summer.

Original article here

Greenland proceeds with plans for offshore drilling in Arctic waters

(Darrell Delamaide for OilPrice.com via OilGuy/OpEdNews.com, 9 May 2010) — While the oil spill from a sunken drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico threatens to become an environmental disaster, plans are proceeding for opening up new drilling territories in the iceberg-infested waters off Greenland. The island, an autonomous territory under Danish sovereignty, this week conducted an auction for 14 blocks in Baffin Bay, off the northwest coast of Greenland near Canadian territorial waters. Results will be announced in August. In the meantime, Cairn Energy will this summer begin drilling off DiskoIsland in Baffin Bay on the basis of leases awarded in earlier auctions. Exxon Mobil and Chevron also hold existing leases, while Royal Dutch Shell and Norway’s Statoil were among the bidders in this week’s auctions. The U.S. Geological Survey has estimated that some 50 billion barrels of oil may be found offshore Greenland, where ice covers four-fifths of the surface territory for a good part of the year. Some in Greenland, which has a population of only 57,000, hope that oil will be the ticket to independence from Denmark, which has controlled the island since the 18th century. The portion of the Labrador Current flowing through Davis Strait off western Greenland is known as “iceberg alley” because huge chunks of ice that calve from the northern glaciers make their way into the northern Atlantic along this route. Ironically, global warming, which has melted some of the Arctic glaciers, has made offshore drilling in these waters more feasible. However, the Gulf oil spill is raising concerns in Canada about the risks posed in drilling so near the Canadian coastline. Cairn Energy’s only offshore drilling experience has been in the much warmer Indian Ocean, and no one has had to cope with an oil spill in Arctic waters. Officials from eight Arctic countries, including Canada, are to meet in Greenland next month to discuss possible environmental risks of oil exploration and production in the region. Last fall, seven companies with drilling licenses, including Cairn, formed the Greenland Oil Industry Association to exchange expertise and liaise with the government on environmental and other issues. Analysts estimate that an oil price of at least $50 a barrel is necessary to make Arctic offshore drilling worthwhile. Prices have hovered around $80 a barrel in recent months.

Original article here