The sanctions are used yet again to explain Russian issues. This time, it is a postponed launch of the first piece of hardware of the Arktika multi-purpose satellite system and drastic situation in which Arctic seismic operations are. Such a somber opinion of the latter issue was given by A. Kholostin, the Deputy PM of the Russian Federation. Two vessels for seismic exploration of the Arctic shelf are to be built in the framework of the Russian import substitution program. Scientific fleet will need them badly after 2018, when currently used ones will become obsolete. Greenpeace disputes results of the auction for licensing of the Barents Sea development activities. The environmental organization claims oil and gas development in the Arctic threatens global climate. It demands cancelation of the auction’s results. It was Russia who won the auction.
Federal media covered the following Arctic agenda events last week:
The Roscosmos State Corporation for Space Activities deciding to postpone launch of the first piece of hardware of the Arktika multi-purpose satellite system until 2018;
The Russia President approving using budget funds to build 2 vessels for the Arctic seismic exploration;
Greenpeace and Norway environmentalists filing a lawsuit in the Oslo District Court, demanding cancelation of the results of the auction for licensing of the Barents Sea development activities.
Postponing Arktika satellite system launch
Roscosmos postponing launch of the first piece of hardware of the Arktika multi-purpose satellite system until 2018 became one of the last week’s highlights. The decision was due to the onboard equipment not being ready. The official reason is that Russian engineers do not have access to foreign electronic components anymore due to the Western sanctions and have to seek for alternatives. They have been doing so for a long time now, too. It is not the first time the satellite launch is postponed. Initially, it was due to take place in 2015. However, it is not a problem since currently deployed Russian satellites are able to monitor the Arctic, according to some experts. Roscosmos lobbied the Arktika project; it was not needed, such experts say.
Decision to build 2 seismic exploration vessels
The Russian scientific fleet being obsolete is a serious issue for studying and developing the Arctic shelf in view of the Western sanctions. 3D exploration is in drastic situation, according to A. Khloponin, the Deputy PM and natural reserves development supervisor. At the same time, Russia can continue 2D exploration only until 2018. Hence the last week’s decision to build 2 vessels for seismic exploration of the Arctic using budget funds. However, dedicated media outlets are yet to specify the due dates.
Sanctions and outcries of environmentalists opposing Barents Sea shelf development
The sanctions are harmful to both Russian and Western oil-and-gas companies interested in the Arctic shelf development, according to Russia media outlets. It is especially the case with ExxonMobile loosing $1 billion due to suspension of its joint projects with Rosneft. Liberalization of access to the Arctic shelf is still one of the major incentives for boosting the Arctic projects implementation, according to A. Shokhin, the head of the Russian Businesspersons and Entrepreneurs Union. Lukoil and other private companies being able to access the currently unavailable to them shelf should add to competitiveness in the field. Private companies shifted to Norway due to them not being able to invest into the Russian Arctic shelf oil-and-gas projects. Lukoil and Dea Norder owned by M. Fridman won licenses for oil recovery in the Barents Sea. However, Greenpeace and Norway environmentalists filed a lawsuit, demanding cancelation of the results of the auction, for they contradict the Paris environmental agreement that Norway had entered this summer. The lawsuit is unlikely to be satisfied, according to specialist. However, international environmental organizations keep bringing up the danger of climate changes in which the Arctic industrialization can result. They point to data on Arctic Ocean ice-cap shrinkage.
Military exercises in Arctic and Russian-USA cooperation in Arctic
New military exercises took place in the Arctic, according to media outlets. They involved MiG-35BM jet fighters that intercepted “imaginary” trespassers. They also involved the Smolensk submarine that successfully fired a winged missile at a target from under the water. The target was located in a high-latitude area of the Barents Sea. Moreover, Russian Arctic units are been equipped with new weaponry, according to media outlets. This includes the Bal Coastal Missile System. Russian military expansion into the Arctic is famously a source of concern for Western countries. However, such attitude is mostly representative of media outlets and experts. On the contrary, the USA official spokespersons claim the relations between the 2 countries are satisfactory.
Global Warming and increase in Northern Sea Route freight volume
The Route Administration management expects the Route freight volume to be record-breaking and amount to 6 million tons this year. The last time the freight volume was that high was 30 years ago, in 1987. The freight volume increase goes hand in hand with large Arctic oil-and-gas projects (Yamal LNG, Arctic Gates, Prirazlomnoe field). However, the Arctic warming up is a major reason behind the freight volume increase, too. It is yet to be known how long the warming up will last, but it still concerns environmentalists and scientists. The Chukchi Sea temperature rises, while polar bears advance as far as 40-60 km into the tundra, according to media outlets.
Source: Arctic-Info Photo: Ministry of Defense