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Dancing on Ice

EastRussia learned from experts how to improve the level of security in the region and how Russia to strengthen its presence in the Arctic, which is a zone of national interests for many states with northern territories

Dancing on Ice

In early May, the United States authorities allowed the company Shell Drilling wells for oil and gas production in Arctic waters off the coast of Alaska, despite warnings of a possible environmental catastrophe. Reviewer EastRussia Learned from experts how to improve the level of security in the region and how Russia to strengthen its presence in the Arctic, which is a zone of national interests for many states that have northern territories.


Shell tail

The situation surrounding Shell's plans to start drilling in the Arctic zone is not easy. It not only gives rise to talk about a geopolitical confrontation in the Arctic, but also provokes protests from environmentalists: in 2012, Shell was already going to conduct work in the Chukchi Sea, but they had to collapse because of the accident.

"In 2012, there was a complete failure of exploration in the Arctic by Shell. I was extremely surprised how it was all organized, "recalls Vasiliy Bogoyavlensky, deputy director of the Institute of Oil and Gas Problems of the Russian Academy of Sciences. According to him, two old drilling vessels (one of them Noble Discoverer 1976 of the year of construction) were taken to the Arctic, and the problems began almost immediately: the vessel ran aground. "It seems without any special consequences, but at once" the pancake has gone ", - he continued. - We went to the Arctic - started drilling, a day later (for us it's also a mystery), the argument was this - the ice situation changed. The drilling program (the drilling of several deep wells was planned) was not carried out. " Bogoyavlensky said that the storm began - the crew had to be evacuated, the drilling rig (platform Kulluk - comment of the author) Was thrown to the will of the waves, then was thrown into the bank, but survived.

"After that, more than a year, the competent US authorities figured out how this could happen. Shell contributed to Arctic research. Everything went to the brink. If the platform drowned, then all world organizations would be of one mind that it is time to suspend activities in the Arctic, "Bogoyavlensky is sure.

He believes, "we are going to the nearest major catastrophe in the Arctic." "Who can do it, we will not guess. But if it happens, then the world community, of course, will stand on its hind legs. And there will be serious problems with the continuation of Arctic work, "- explains the expert.

"Two years have passed - Shell obtained permission. I do not know what drilling vessels are planning to use. Shell's costs are already at this stage, taking into account the license, more than 5 billion dollars in total. Of course, they can not give up this direction. Although the time is unsuccessful: the price of oil is unfavorable. Many companies curtail or slow down their activity in the Arctic until better times, "- he expressed his opinion.

Director of the Energy Development Fund Sergei Pikin believes that the decision to start work off the coast of Alaska is not related to current oil prices. This is intelligence first. "The Arctic is a project not exactly this decade, and maybe not even the next. In my opinion, the state of oil and gas production in the world, the technologies that are currently being applied, have not yet reached a level that would, on the one hand, allow the Arctic shelf to be adequately and efficiently developed from the economic point of view. On the other hand, from the point of view of ecology and technological safety [these technologies] are not able to bring us closer to those methods of neutralizing threats, risks that exist among continental deposits. The decision to mine off the coast of Alaska is not entirely correct, since it contains threats and risks, as on the Russian part of the shelf, "Pikin said.

According to him, in this decade "it is necessary to develop more deeply and by other methods deposits on the continent: they are cheaper". "Arctic deposits start from 120-130 dollars per barrel. I think that in the coming years, if nothing extraordinary happens, this price will not be reached, "the expert said, predicting that the price for oil will remain about 70 dollars per barrel for the next five-year period. "The Arctic does not fit exactly as a project to develop oil and gas," he summed up.

Bogoyavlensky explained that "we do not observe the race for the Arctic almost nowhere." "The only thing, the most active - Norwegians, who order 10 wells drilled a year. Arctic shelf of Norway is radically different from all other Arctic shelf areas. The Gulf Stream works here, in January the temperature is about 0 degrees, and in Eastern Siberia we have the minus 30 - 40. There's no ice. They can drill all year round, "Bogoyavlensky said.

"By reserves, we have only 2 percent of the country's oil (In the Arctic - author's note), 96 percent on land (Another 2 percent on the shelf of the Sea of ​​Okhotsk and the Caspian Sea - author's note.). From this conclusion: how to optimize the extraction of oil on land, without forgetting the Arctic projects, primarily research, and then mining, "- says Bogoyavlensky on what work should be done in the Arctic today. He stressed that large deposits of oil and gas can be located on the shelf of the Arctic. It is in them that big companies are interested that are "spoiled" by projects on land.

Uncorked to reinforce

The Arctic is acquiring an increasingly geopolitical significance, Pikin believes, because this is the shortest logistical route associated with the delivery of goods and the solution of military-political tasks. And the energy war in the Arctic, he said, is more unfolding in the pages of magazines and newspapers: the development of the Arctic today is extremely low. Technology, confined to the region, has not been fully developed. If we take America, then it applies the technology used for oil production in the Gulf of Mexico, Russia uses the technologies that were received from partners, in particular from Norwegians, even before the sanctions were introduced.

"There is no war in terms of extraction. There is a territorial dispute in the UN and other venues about the division of the Arctic shelf. In terms of resource extraction - a far-fetched story, "Pikin expressed his opinion, stressing that" the Arctic is more of a transport region that should work. "

Director of the Center for the Economy of the North and Arctic SOPS, Chairman of the socio-economic section of the Expert Council on the Arctic and Antarctic under the Chairman of the Council of Federation of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation Alexander Pilyasov was present in Washington on the Shell report on the work in the Chukchi Sea in 2012. He recalls that the company reported "as a schoolboy" and it was all "outlandish and wonderful." Shell's new statement about the beginning of work in the Arctic waters is quite natural for Americans.

According to Pilyasov, there are constant waves in American history, when environmental prohibitions on drilling oil wells with the slogans "keep stocks for future generations" are replaced by the idea "let's uncork to strengthen positions in the oil and gas market." Now came the wave of "everything is uncorked", to show himself a hegemon, Pilyasov shared with EastRussia. According to him, from the economic point of view, only the federal government is concerned with drilling: "Federal interests work here. The State of Alaska does not receive any income. "

Minister of Federal Relations and External Relations of the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia), Vladimir Vasilyev, agrees that the US decision to start developing oil and gas fields in the Arctic offshore waters is of geopolitical significance. “In my opinion, [this] can be seen as an attempt to outrun Russia in this area, as well as a desire to consolidate the right of the United States to dictate certain conditions to the participants of the Arctic cooperation,” the official explains.

"The United States in April of this year took over the chairmanship of the Arctic Council (The Arctic Council is an international forum created in 1996 by the initiative of Finland to protect the unique nature of the northern polar zone, it includes eight Arctic countries - author's comment), but so far there is no official assessment from members of the Arctic Council regarding the granting of permission to develop fields in the Alaska shelf zone of Shell. Perhaps this is due to the fact that within the framework of the Ikaluit Declaration, the Arctic Council adopted a framework plan for cooperation in the field of oil pollution prevention during the activities of oil and sea companies in the Arctic seas (Adopted at the Ministerial meeting of the Arctic Council in the city of Iqaluit (Canada) 24-25 April - comment of the author) ", - commented Vasiliev EastRussia.

In the Ministry of Natural Resources and Ecology of Russia, EastRussia specified that the members of the Arctic Council equally assessed the need for an agreement: all countries should be aware of the need to formulate uniform rules for preventing and responding to oil spills, the risks of which exist in connection with the planned shipping and oil production in the region .

The press service of the EastRussia department also reported that in 2014 the mechanism of financing of the Arctic Council Support Program was successfully launched. Russia contributed to this fund 5 million euros in 2014 and the same number is already listed in 2015 year. Nevertheless, the Global Environment Facility (GEF) has frozen funding for Russian projects, including the forthcoming program "Partnership between the Russian Federation and the GEF on Sustainable Environmental Management in the Arctic in a rapidly changing climate," the so-called Arctic Agenda 2020 ", Which includes a number of projects aimed at improving the state of the environment in the Arctic region.

"Appeals for cooperation in the Arctic in statements, including a number of American officials that ecology in the Arctic should be out of politics, must be backed up by concrete deeds. In this case, unfortunately, we see that the words differ from the cases. Among the GEF projects frozen, as we were told by G7 decision, is also the project "Nomadic reindeer breeders", aimed at supporting the indigenous small peoples of the North, "the press service quotes the words of the Minister of Natural Resources and Ecology of Russia, Sergei Donskoy.

The need to improve security in the Arctic has been repeatedly stated by Russian President Vladimir Putin. This question is particularly relevant at the moment when Western countries are trying to strengthen their presence in the region. The Russian Federation has begun systematic work to strengthen its position in the Arctic, and one of the evidence of this is the creation of the State Commission on the Development of the Arctic, explained Vladimir Vasiliev, EastRussia.

“Our state needs to restore and expand the entire infrastructure of the Arctic, ranging from sea and airports, navigation systems, environmental monitoring networks to improving the living conditions of the population living in the Arctic zone. It is necessary to maximize the potential of the Arctic Council, the Northern Forum (The Northern Forum is an international non-governmental organization of the northern regions formed at the initiative of the regional governments of Hokkaido (Japan), Alaska (USA), Magadan and Kamchatka Regions (USSR) in 1991. In the early 2000-ies. It included 25 regions from 11 countries around the world. The Secretariat of the Northern Forum is located in Yakutsk - note.avt.), The Barents Euro-Arctic region, the Conference of Arctic parliamentarians, major Arctic conferences, forums. Participate in events at the highest level to demonstrate best practices and approaches to solving problems, "he said. In the meantime, according to Vasiliev, Russia is passively participating in international events, which does not allow maintaining the leading positions. "Moreover, it is necessary to ensure the consolidated participation of federal and regional experts, demonstrating unity throughout the entire space of our state," the expert adds.

Two Arctic

Take a strong place in the Arctic of Russia will help the APR countries. This is evidenced by expert opinions, and the state policy of "reversal to the East." So, the day before President of India Pranab Mukherjee's visit to Moscow, timed to coincide with the celebration of 9 May, Russian presidential aide Yuri Ushakov said that Indian companies can participate in the development of the Arctic shelf.

China is interested in the Russian Arctic not so much from the point of view of oil production, but from the point of view of the development of the Northern Sea Route as the largest carrier of goods along this transport arctic artery.

"I think we Indian and Chinese partners are interesting from the point of view of investment. Because neither the Chinese nor the Indians have the technology that we need to develop the Arctic shelf, especially not. Not to say that they have succeeded in some other technologies that are available from other foreign partners currently under the sanctions, "- said the director of the Energy Development Fund Sergei Pikin about the" turn to the East. "

According to him, "what was offered to the Chinese partners, these are projects that are already being developed, like Vankor, very profitable projects, or projects that have a very high state status."

"For the Indian side, the situation is similar. They are interested in projects that will be under the control of the first person of the state, then they will invest in it, "Pikin said. He continued that the "turn to the East" is not only due to the fact that we were under sanctions. Work with Chinese and Indian partners and the Asian region has been going on for a long time. Contracts at a high stage of readiness were already for about ten years, but there were a number of restrictions that are now being lifted.

"In general, the APR is the fastest growing in the world, and it will remain so for the coming decades. We are interested in this market, to increase our share. Because of sanctions, the share of Russia in the European market will decline, the American market becomes self-sufficient. Potentially interesting projects are African, but have not yet reached their level, "he concluded.

Director of the Center for the Economy of the North and Arctic SOPS, chairman of the socio-economic section of the Expert Council for the Arctic and Antarctic, under the chairman of the Federation Council of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation Alexander Pilyasov proposes to divide the Russian Arctic territory into the Arctic of Europe and the Arctic of Asia. "Judging by the number of projects implemented in the last 15 years and expected to be realized before the year 2020, the Arctic arctic is the real arctic frontier in Russia. It is here that dozens of new resource projects are being implemented and planned for implementation, including the Southern Group of Yamal fields, the eastern part of the Yenisei Gulf; Ore deposits of the Polar and Subpolar Urals, the Severo-Vankor, Tagulsky, Pelyatkinsky, Verkhne-Telekaisky, Verkhne-Echinsky, and Gulinsky; Yakut Kyuchus, Talakhtak, Tirekhtyakh, Tomtor; Chukotka deposits Dvoinoye, Maple, Kekura, Pyrkakayskoye and others, "he told EastRussia.

According to Pilyasov, the situation is sharply opposite in the Arctic of Europe and the Arctic of Asia. In the first, the number of major cities, potential bases for pioneering development, is sufficient: the economic potential of Murmansk and Arkhangelsk makes it possible to implement projects for the new development of the Arctic both on land and, with minimal preparation, at sea. "However, here the number of such projects planned for implementation in the near future is minimal. The Shtokman project, which successfully blended into the already existing network of city-outposts, was postponed indefinitely, "Pilyasov said.

In the Arctic regions of Asia, in addition to Norilsk, large cities-outposts, no. Therefore, he argues, it is important to pull up such settlements as Dixon, Dudinka, Tiksi, Pevek, Bilibino, to the functions of large bases for the development of the Asian Arctic frontier of Russia, including by creating new scientific and educational centers and new economic clusters and territories of advanced development TOP).

"The tasks of mastering the new frontiers of the land and sea regions of Asia will require bridges of cooperation between southern and northern Asia, which are currently developing in an antiphase: the Asia-Pacific countries (China, India, South Korea, Singapore, Vietnam, Malaysia) demonstrate a rapid economic dynamics, on the other hand, The arctic territories of Asian Russia are experiencing an acute shortage of investment resources to move the implementation of numerous new projects. For the development of South Asia to penetrate into its northern outskirts, it is necessary to create new international development institutions oriented in the territory of polar Asia. This is primarily about the Arctic Bank for Reconstruction and Development. Now, after the creation of the Asian Bank for Infrastructure Investments, it seems absolutely realistic, "Pilyasov argues.

Without insurance

If we move away from the economic and political aspects of the development of the Arctic territories, the Arctic will remain as a separate physico-geographical region of the Earth with a unique plant and animal world that must be protected and preserved by the whole world.

So, in the Arctic Russia is the world's largest network of specially protected natural territories. According to the press service of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Ecology of Russia, over the past 5 years, the total area of ​​federal protected areas (Specially protected natural areas - a comment.) Was increased by 6 million hectares. Over the next 7 years, it is planned to create 24 federal protected areas on an area of ​​more than 8 million hectares. The national park "Russian Arctic" was created in 2009, in 2013 - Onega Pomorye in the Arkhangelsk Region and "Beringia" in the Chukotka Autonomous District (over an area of ​​1 million 819 thousand hectares). The territory of the national park "Russian Arctic" is also planned to expand.

Thus, the drilling of an oil well off the coast of the Chukchi Sea by Shell threatens the nature not only of Alaska, but also of Russia. In particular, according to Greenpeace, the unique Arctic reserve "Wrangel Island", which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In the event of an accident (in accordance with the plan for the elimination of oil spills from Shell 2012 year) in 10 days, the oil slick will cross the Russian border, and through 30 it will reach the buffer zone of the reserve. The organization sent a letter to UNESCO where it described the situation, and, in order to draw public attention to the environmental problem, conducts provocative actions - for example, by seizing a drilling platform in the Arctic.

Another environmental organization is WWF (World Wildlife Fund - note.avt.) - Collected signatures 100 thousand Americans under the request to prohibit the development of oil deposits in the Chukchi Sea. As WWF has learned from Shell sources, the development site is located 70 miles from the coast of Alaska, and the nearest US Coast Guard station is a thousand miles away. Representatives of the Russian branch of WWF told EastRussia that they approve of the actions and position of their American colleagues. According to figures, oil spills in exploration and drilling are unavoidable, and the probability of at least one spill more than 1000 barrels of oil in the implementation of the Shell project is 75%.

"The consequences for wildlife can be irreversible: the Chukchi Sea is home to polar bears, walruses, beluga whales and bowhead whales, as well as for a variety of seabird populations," the WWF press service warns in a press release distributed. The press service quotes Alexei Knizhnikov, the head of the program on environmental policy of the WWF-Russia fuel and energy complex, who believes that «If there is a spill in the American sector of the Chukchi Sea, in a few weeks the oil can reach the Russian sector, Therefore it is necessary to conduct "A transboundary environmental impact assessment of Shell's exploratory drilling project, which was not done."

Vasily Bogoyavlensky, Deputy Director of the Institute of Oil and Gas Problems of the Russian Academy of Sciences, believes that one should not take such tough environmental positions.

"There are a lot of ecologists who accompany and help. In any company, like Rosneft, Gazprom, environmentalists work or are attracted from other organizations. Their goal is to prevent the consequences (Accidents - approx.), Although there is no insurance against them, - said Bogoyavlensky. - You can fight to minimize the likelihood of accidents and consequences. But 100% guarantee does not exist. "

President of the IPO Association of Polar Explorers, Special Representative of the President of the Russian Federation for International Cooperation in the Arctic and Antarctic Artur Chilingarov told EastRussia that strict environmental safety standards exist for carrying out Russian operations in the Arctic.

"We have an agreement on Antarctica - we owe everything that we produce or participate in production, export, leaving the continent environmentally friendly. It's the same in the Arctic. It is dear to us. And besides "Greenpeace", we ourselves understand this. We should not be warmed up. No work (company Shell - author's comment) will not be carried out if environmental safety is not ensured, ”he commented EastRussia.

The Minister of Natural Resources and Ecology of the Russian Federation, Sergey Donskoi, confirmed the words of Chilingarov.

“As for Shell, they will drill after carrying out all the necessary environmental assessments,” he clarified EastRussia.

"Environmental organizations drew attention to the fact that in the event of an accident, the ecology on the Wrangel Island could be disturbed (Greenpeace wrote a lot about this, but it is clear that Greenpeace signals everything that one can only think about). It is clear that work, including in the Arctic, should be carried out with maximum consideration of those risks and necessarily taking into account the provision of environmental safety, and not only environmental. There, human security must be ensured. These are unique projects, and, of course, the standards that should be used in the work must be the highest, "the EastRusssia minister explained.

According to Donskoy, we once adopted amendments to the Law on the Continental Shelf: we were among the first to adopt such amendments to the law to ensure work in the Arctic.

"Now Russia is developing the most modern, the most effective and the most qualitative experience in the Arctic. The fact that environmentalists pay attention to these or other risks, this should be taken into account in all types of work and plans. It is impossible to stop in any case: the Arctic should be studied, it is necessary to master, because in any case, mankind will have to work in this region, "summed up Donskoy.

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