Posts Tagged ‘russia’

Russia to make law on Arctic territories (Barents Observer/RIA Novosti)

November 9, 2011

Barents Observer 2011-11-01, original article here.
Russia’s Arctic territories will become a separate object of state policy. A federal law on this subject is expected to be prepared in 2012.

– The place and role of the northern territories in the country’s socio-economic development pre-determine the need to single out the Arctic zone as a separate object of state policy, a draft concept of the law reads, according to RIA Novosti.

Russia's Arctic zone is to be singled out as s seperate object of state policy. Parts of Arkhangelsk Oblast, where this picture is taken, is considered to be part of the Arctic zone. (Photo: Trude Pettersen)

The draft concept has been prepared by the Ministry of Regional Development and has been handed over to the Government for approval. The final law will be prepared in 2012 as part of Russia’s state program for economic and social development of the Russian Arctic in 2012-2020.

The authors of the draft believe that development of the Arctic zone should be a top national priority, like development of Siberia used to be:

– The Arctic is a veritable storeroom of natural resources – 27 million square kilometers of the Continental Shelf where 70-75 percent of the mineral and biological resources of the world’s oceans and seas might be concentrated.

The Russian Arctic zone includes the entire Murmansk Region, the Nenets, Yamal-Nenets and Chukotka Autonomous Areas, as well as some parts of Karelia, the Komi Republic, Yakutia, the Arkhangelsk Region and the Krasnoyarsk Territory. The Arctic zone’s territory also includes coastal lowlands of the Arctic Ocean, basins of rivers flowing into the Arctic seas, indivisible administrative-territorial entities, as well as major resource-production complexes being serviced by the Northern Sea Route.

Russian site could be late Neanderthal refuge

May 24, 2011
By MALCOLM RITTER, Associated Press 05/19/2011 Original article here

NEW YORK — Scientists have identified what may be one of the last northern refuges of Neanderthals, a spot near the Arctic Circle in Russia with artifacts dated to 31,000 to 34,000 years ago.

Stone tools and flakes found there look like the work of Neanderthals, the stocky, muscular hunters who lived in Europe and western Asia until they were replaced by modern humans, researchers reported today in the journal Science.

The site lies along the Pechora River west of the Ural Mountains, about 92 miles south of the Arctic Circle. Researchers dated it from animal bones and sand grains. Nobody has found any human bones or DNA that could provide stronger evidence that Neanderthals lived there, report the scientists, from Russia, France and Norway. The artifacts had been collected during various expeditions.

Richard Klein, a Stanford University professor of anthropology, said the artifacts do look like the work of Neanderthals, but that it’s also possible they were made by modern people instead.

Neanderthals were not previously known to be in that area, nor convincingly shown to be present anywhere at such a recent time, he said. Finding another site or human bones would help settle the question, he said.

Eric Delson, a paleoanthropologist at Lehman College of the City of New York, cited a 2006 study that suggests Neanderthals occupied a cave near the southern tip of Spain at about the same time as the new work puts them in Russia. Maybe the two locations show how Neanderthals retreated in opposite directions from the encroachment of the modern humans, he said.

Russia to ratify maritime border pact with Norway within month – Lavrov

March 23, 2011

07/03/2011 RIA Novosti original article here

Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov

Russian lower house of parliament, the State Duma, will ratify a maritime border demarcation treaty with Norway within a month, Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov said on Monday.

Last year Russia and Norway signed a deal to delimitate their maritime border in the Barents Sea and Arctic Ocean after 40 years of negotiations.

Both countries have been disputing the 175,000 square km area since 1970. The absence of defined maritime border often resulted in detentions of fishing vessels in the region.

The agreement has also paved the way for the lifting of a 30-year-long moratorium on oil and gas extraction in the previously disputed zone.

“We were discussing the vital issue for our states [maritime border demarcation pact]…Norway has ratified the pact. Russia has just started the ratification. We are planning to settle it within a month,” Lavrov told a meeting with his Norwegian counterpart, Jonas Gahr Store in Russia’s Baltic exclave of Kaliningrad.

Russia, however, is still in a dispute with Canada over the Lomonosov Ridge in the Arctic Ocean, with both countries trying to persuade a UN commission that it is an extension of its own continental shelf. The sides have agreed that scientific evidence should resolve the dispute.

KALININGRAD, March 7 (RIA Novosti)

Arctic oil drill splits Norway’s government

March 14, 2011

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.

TNK-BP moves closer to Russian arctic

March 8, 2011

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.

Russia enhances control in the Arctic

March 5, 2011
Barent Observer 2011-03-02 original article here
 

FSB Border Guard soldiersFSB Border Guard soldiers
Photo: Trude Pettersen 

The Russian border guard service plans to establish a monitoring network in the Arctic from Murmansk to the Wrangel Island.

The monitoring network will ensure effective control over the Arctic, says First Deputy Commander of the Federal Security Service’s (FSB) Border Guard Service Colonel General Vyacheslav Dorokhin, according to Nezavisimaya Gazeta.

The Northern Sea Route is currently controlled from the air by FSB aircrafts, on the western part of the route by vessels from the border guard service in Murmansk and on the eastern part of the route by coast guard vessels from the North-Eastern Border Guard Agency, Dorokhin says.

The general underlines that the Arctic is a priority area for the FSBs border guard service.

Text: Trude Pettersen

Arctic railway launched, Barents Observer reports

March 5, 2011

Barents Observer 2011-03-03  – Original article here
The new railway line connecting the Yamal Peninsula with the rest of the Russian railway grid is declared open to regular traffic. Regular operation of the 572 km long railroad to its terminal point – the Karskaya station – was launched in February 15. The line connects major regional installations like the Bovanenkovo gas field with national key infrastructure. The Obskaya-Bovanenkovo railway line will enable Gazprom to easily ship huge quantities of goods and construction materials to its field development sites in Yamal. -The opening of this railway will facilitate all-year-round, quick, cost efficient and not-weather-dependent transport of goods and personnel to the fields in Yamal under the harsh Arctic conditions, a press release from Gazprom reads. Unline other Russian railway lines, the Obskaya-Bovanenkovo line is owned by Gazprom. As previously reported, the Russian Railways have been invited to take over the line, but has shown little interest. Read also: Russian Railways does not want Gazprom’s Yamal railway In addition to railway and field development in Yamal, Gazprom is also investing in the laying of the Bovanenkovo-Ukhta gas pipeline.

Text: Atle Staalesen

Russia Embraces Offshore Arctic Drilling

February 26, 2011

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.

Yara: Mining in Lapland, enrichment on Kola

February 21, 2011

 

011-02-16 Barents Oberver – original article here
Fertilizer giant Yara says it is favourable to ship ore tailings from its coming Sokoli mine in Finnish Lapland to existing concentrator plant in Kovdor, just cross the Russian border.

 

Yara fertilizer plant and phosphate rock mining in Siilinjärvi near Kuopio in Finland.
Yara fertilizer plant and phosphate rock mining in Siilinjärvi near Kuopi in Finland.
Photo: Yara International ASA

The plan is to start mining in 2014-15. Technical and economic studies are now underway, but Yara Soumi Oy says already that building its own enrichment plant in Sokoli will be too costly.

– It make sense to use the existing concentrator plant for apatite, located only 50 kilometres away, instead of building a new one, says Eero Hemming, coordinator for the project in a press-note posted on Yara Suomi Oy’s own portal.

The concentrator plant in question is located in the Russian mining town of Kovdor, near the border to Finland on the Kola Peninsula.

Hemming says another reason to go for the Russian plant is to make less impact on the environment in the area near Sokli.

The up-coming mining of phosphate and niobium in Sokli has triggered protests from an ad-hoc environmental group. The group Save-Sokli claims the by-products make mining in the area extremely problematic.

Sokli is located in Savukoski, between the Urho Kekkonen National Park and the Värriö National Park, said to be the most significant wilderness camping area of Eastern Lapland. The mines will also influence on migration and grazing area of reindeers of Kemin-Sompio, the largest reindeer herdsman cooperative in Finland.


Urho Kekkonen National Park in Finnish Lapland is one of the most significant wilderness area in the Barents Region. Photo: Thomas Nilsen

By shipping the ore to Russia for concentration, Yara hopes to minimize the environmental impact in Finland.

Yara is now proceeding with the Kovdor plant’s owner EuroChem to find solutions for upgrading the ore at the existing plant cross the border from Sokli. Kovdor is Russia’s second biggest producer of apatite concentrate.

The regional news portal Barentsnova reported earlier in February that Murmansk governor Dmitri Dmitrienko recently approved a long-term program to modernize the plants in Kovdor and to construct production facilities for several other minerals.

According to Yara, ore mined in Sokli can be transported to Kovdor either by tube or train.

Yara has long history of doing business with the fertilizer industry on the Kola Peninsula. The company has bought apatite minerals from both the mines in Kovdor and in Kirovsk. The minerals are shipped from a special designed port in Murmansk to Yara’s fertilizer plants in Glomfjord and Herøya in Norway.

The port facilities for loading of apatite minerals in Murmansk.
The port facilities for loading of apatite minerals in Murmansk. Photo: Thomas Nilsen

The mining plans in Sokli are welcomed by locals in Finnish Lapland. The mine will create jobs for 110-150 people, and even more in the construction period.

Yara will make a final decision on the mining and processing during 2012.

LATESTEco-groups protest Yara cross-border plans

Text: Thomas Nilsen

 

Nordic Council, EU and Russia meet to tackle development issues in the Arctic and Barents region

February 20, 2011

Feb 17, 2011 Original article here

The Nordic and Baltic countries meet February 22 with Russia and the EU, as well as representatives from the Arctic and Barents regions, to tackle issues such as the pollution of the Baltic Sea, improvement of the Northern Axis transportation corridor linking Europe and Asia, as well as energy policy and other matters of common concern.

Politicians from the Nordic and Baltic region as well as the Arctic and Barents area meet with representatives from the Russian Duma and the European Parliament for the second Northern Dimension Parliamentary Forum on February 22-23.

The Forum will take place in Tromsø, Norway and is hosted by the Norwegian Parliament.

Politicians present include representatives of the Saami population and the indigenous peoples of the Arctic region.

The Northern Dimension Partnership includes four pillars: environmental issues, health and social issues, transport and culture.

Negotiations will take place in all four areas, resulting in policy recommendations for the relevant national governments of all the parties involved.

The first Northern Dimension Parliamentary Forum was hosted by the European Parliament in 2009. The Forum has been instituted to improve cooperation and development in Northern Europe and the Arctic.

More information

For accreditation and news services contact:

Thomas Fraser thomas.fraser@stortinget.no +47 40 45 54 50