Category Archives: Oceans
The United States Coast Guard is being left behind in the Arctic. While countries such as Russia are building up their icebreaker fleet and actively increasing their presence in the Arctic, the United States is losing its only form of sovereignty in the region.
On December 1, Rear Admiral Jeffrey M. Garrett, U.S. Coast Guard, testified before Congress on protecting U.S. sovereignty in the Arctic. He stated in Second Line of Defense that “the Icebreaker fleet represents the main surface presence that the U.S. can exert in what is essentially a maritime domain in the Arctic Ocean.” Yet today, the Coast Guard has an icebreaker fleet of only three ships. Worse yet, two of these ships are out of commission due to maintenance work and will not be available for at least seven more years.
The lone icebreaker in commission is the USCGC Healy, which conducts all types of missions from search and rescue to navigational aid to scientific research. Though the ship has been effective at its job in the Arctic, it is designed to break through ice of only medium thickness; for ice of heavy thickness, the Healy is absolutely useless. And like the other two icebreakers, it is quickly aging.
Without efforts to modernize the fleet, the future of the U.S. national maritime interest and security in the Arctic is looking pretty bleak. Icebreakers are a necessity in the region, and without them the U.S. might as well throw in the towel. These ships are key to year-round access to the Arctic and are the only U.S. insurance policy for future hazardous events. If something happens to the Healy, then the United States would not only lose access to the region but would not be able to react to potential oil spills and would become less effective in search-and-rescue missions.
Complicating matters even further, ice in the Arctic is melting, producing more ocean area for the transportation of goods and services in the region. Essentially, whoever best utilizes this route will control trade and transportation of goods and materials in the upper hemisphere. With all other nations around the Arctic building their icebreaker fleets and exploiting the key transportation route that connects the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, the United States is falling behind.
In order to create an icebreaking fleet to maintain U.S. presence in the region, the Administration should look toward privatizing the fleet. Allowing private companies to own and operate the U.S. icebreaking fleet and perform national security functions would not only allow for crucial modernization but also save federal dollars and expand U.S. capabilities in the Arctic. This is particularly important at a time when the government is looking to cut corners in federal spending.
Ultimately, something must be done. If the U.S. does not act fast, it will come in last in the race for the Arctic.
Tyler Davis is currently a member of the Young Leaders Program at The Heritage Foundation. For more information on interning at Heritage, please visit: http://www.heritage.org/about/departments/ylp.cfm
Posted in American Leadership
- The Coast Guard needs new icebreakers to protect U.S. interests in the Arctic (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
- U.S. Subcommittee: USCG Needs Icebreakers (gcaptain.com)
- AP Interview: lt. gov. calls for US icebreakers (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
- Congress and White House differ over icebreakers (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
- Polar icebreaker dispute ties up Coast Guard appropriations (cnn.com)
- AP Interview: Lt. Gov. calls for US icebreakers (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
As the chase for oil and gas moves further north, the oil services industry follows. Today Aker Solutions, a Norwegian multinational provider of services related to engineering, construction, maintenance, modification and operation announces plans to establish a large engineering office in Tromsø as part of the company’s northern Norway strategy.
Aker Solutions announces plans to establish a large engineering office in Tromsø.
The new office will gather knowledge and expertise related to the northern region. It will become involved in engineering and maintenance and modification projects on the entire Norwegian continental shelf and abroad, and be an integral part of Aker Solutions’ international competence network.
“We believe in the reserves potential on the Norwegian continental shelf and in the Arctic. If the marked continues to develop positively and we are successful in our efforts to win work with customers in the region, we believe that we will have a substantial engineering hub in the North with 2-300 employees in three to five years,” says executive chairman of Aker Solutions, Øyvind Eriksen.
The establishment of the Tromsø office is part of Aker Solutions’ overall strategy to increase the company’s footprint in the northern regions of Norway, driven by an increasing number of interesting field development opportunities offshore northern Norway and in the Barents Sea.
Aker Solutions have worked closely with suppliers in northern Norway for many years. The Tromsø office will now develop a sourcing strategy for Aker Solutions in northern Norway and further strengthen our relationships with suppliers in the north.
Tromsø becoming increasingly involved in oil & gas
Tromsø is the largest city in this part of Norway and a regional centre with good connections to other key locations in the north and to other Aker Solutions offices in Norway. The university in Tromsø is becoming increasingly involved in oil and gas related research and education programmes, which is expected to fit well with Aker Solutions’ future competence requirements.
Elsewhere in northern Norway, Aker Solutions is in the process of building up a subsea service base – housing engineers, technical staff and field operators – in Hammerfest to support the Goliat subsea field development. Aker Solutions has also recently acquired the Narvik-based well technology business X3M Invent. Aker Solutions is also considering establishing an engineering office in Sandnessjøen to support the company’s modifications and operations services business.
“In June the Norwegian government announced a petroleum policy that clearly spelt out an expectation to the oil industry that activity at sea should have ripple effects on land through job and value creation. We support this drive because it makes business sense to both us and our customers,” adds Øyvind Eriksen.
Aker Solutions is currently looking for suitable permanent office premises in the city. Recruitment for engineers for the Tromsø office will also start this winter.
Aker Solutions today has offices and operations in the following Norwegian locations: Arendal, Asker, Bergen, Egersund, Fornebu, Hammerfest, Horten, Kristiansand, Kristiansund, Lier, Midsund, Moss, Narvik, Oslo, Porsgrunn, Stavanger, Trondheim and Ågotnes.
Steve Marshall & News reports 28 November 2011 09:19 GMT
Rosneft has had its applications for three licences covering the Severny, Papaninsky and Mezhdusharsky Vostochny structures rejected by Russia’s mineral extraction agency Rosnedra after objections were raised by the Ministry of Defence, a Rosnedra source, quoted in Russian media, was reported as saying by the Barents Observer.
The three tracts, located south-west of the Novaya Zemlya archipelago, are prospective for oil and gas, with Severny reported to hold 26.6 billion barrels of oil equivalent, while Mezhdusharsky and Papaninsky are believed to contain 2 billion boe and 559 million boe respectively.
Rosneft also had its bid to explore the Severo-Barentsevoye field turned down due to ongoing state mapping of the area.
Conflicting interests among Russian state bodies have historically stalled decisions on exploration and development of Barents acreage, with fields discovered in the 1970s still undeveloped.
The Russian military sees the Barents as a strategically important area because it provides ice-free access to the North Atlantic and Arctic Ocean. The might Northern Fleet, based on the Kola Peninsula, has its bases on the Barents coast.
- Russia: Rosneft Gets Clearance to Buy More Offshore Assets in the Arctic (mb50.wordpress.com)
- “arctic oil” Norway mobilises for oil push into Arctic (mb50.wordpress.com)
Scheduled for delivery in March 2012, the most recent addition to Stena Drilling’s fleet will be the industry’s first ice class +1A1 dual-mast ultra deepwater drillship for arctic conditions. But is the industry ready for offshore arctic drilling?
Based in part on Stena’s proven DrillMAX design, the new drillship, now under construction at Samsung Heavy Industries in South Korea, represents the company’s most ambitious project to date. According to Tom Welo, Managing Director of Stena Drilling, the project was conceived to meet the evolving demands of the industry. “Increased global demand for oil has encouraged energy companies to focus more on exploration,” he says. “And since many of the most promising fields are increasingly found in deepwater and harsh environments, including the arctic, we saw an opportunity to build a drillship to reflect the market.”
Tom Welo, Managing Director, Stena Drilling. Photo: Alexander Wardwell
Welo acknowledges that DrillMAX ICE represents a significant investment for the company and so far, the drillship has not secured a contract. “Any newbuilding project built on spec is a risk, but in our view, the greater risk would be to sit still,” he says. “We anticipate continued growth in this segment, and want to strengthen our position as a leading provider of drilling units equipped to operate in harsh environments.”
Flexible operational profile
At present, Stena Drilling operates four semisubmersible drilling platforms and three drillships. While these units have been active all over the world, including the North Sea, US Gulf of Mexico, South East Asia, Mediterranean, Caribbean, South America, North America & Greenland: Atlantic Front, Australia, North Africa and West Africa, the company has earned a strong position as a leading provider of drilling services in harsh environments. While similar to the company’s existing fleet of drillships, the design of DrillMAX ICE has been optimised for ultra deepwater arctic operations.
However, Welo is quick to note that once completed, the unit will be suitable for any job. “While we expect the vessel will be active in the polar region, the design doesn’t limit the drillship to waters above the Arctic Circle,” he says. “Rather, it expands the vessel’s operating parameters to almost any depth or environment.” Welo adds that the new drillship is capable of operating in water depths up to 10,000 feet.
Managing risks in the Arctic
The unit has been optimised for Arctic conditions. Six ice-classed 5.5MW azimuth thrusters, providing maximum manoeuvrability, propel the ice-strengthened hull. Below deck escapeways port and starboard side connect the aft engine rooms with FWD accommodation. Designated moon pools port and starboard allow for installation of two separate ROV systems. Anti-icing equipment protects the unit’s anchors, deck piping, lifeboat escape exits, scuppers and drains while enhanced de-icing machines keeps decks, gangways, and handrails clear. Steam heating coils warm the ballast tanks and drill water tanks and windwalls and cladding offer enhanced protection to the drill floor and dual mast derrick. “Most accidents and near-misses are related to human error, so we have worked hard to ensure the safety and comfort of our crew.”
In total, costs related to adapting the DrillMAX unit for Arctic conditions are calculated somewhere between USD 220 to 240 million. “We did consider adding icebreaking capabilities, but were concerned that the moon pool would collect ice and the cost would be prohibitive,” says Welo. “Instead, when operating in the Arctic, the drillship will have an escort of OSVs to help manage the ice.”
A relative threat
Operating in icy seas and low temperatures, which can drop to –20°C degrees in the Arctic in summer, is challenging, but Welo notes that different environments have different threats. “Operating in the North Sea is complicated by frequent storms and heavy seas and as we saw with Hurricane Katrina, the Gulf of Mexico is hardly a benign environment,” he says. “Icebergs and extreme cold certainly represent a risk in the Arctic, but there is less of a threat from heavy seas and large waves.” Still, Welo adds, DrillMAX ICE can survive waves as high as 30 metres.
While the drillships hull form is based on Stena’s proven DrillMAX design, some topside modifications were included. The drillship is likely to operate in the environmentally sensitive Arctic region, so space was created on deck for an extra six-RAM BOP, providing critical redundancy. “The additional BOP will also help us avoid delays between drilling projects related to the BOP workovers and maintenance.”
While there have been drilling operators active above the Arctic Circle for decades, most notably in the North Sea and the Barents Sea, energy companies have approached exploration in the region with some caution. To help generate more confidence in the Stena DrillMAX ICE concept, the company has worked with a broad range of key suppliers, with extensive experience in harsh environments.
For example, the drillship is equipped with DP3 station-keeping and related automation systems provided by Kongsberg for operating in ice conditions, knuckleboom deck cranes rated for -30°C conditions, and six-RAM BOPs provided by Cameron. The company conducted extensive Ice Model Testing, and worked closely with DNV to achieve ICE 10 Certification, among other notations. “Stena and DNV have worked together for decades,” says Welo. “Like Stena, DNV has extensive experience in the North Sea managing risk in harsh environments. DNV were thus natural choice to class the unit.”
With the build going well at Samsung Heavy Industries, Welo is looking forward to welcoming DrillMAX ICE into the Stena fleet. In the meantime, he says the company is in dialogue with a number of energy companies that have expressed interest in the concept. “I am confident we will secure a charter soon,” he says. “After all, DrillMAX ICE is coming out of the yard during a time when energy companies are expanding their deep and ultra deepwater exploration programmes. With this unit, we can offer the flexibility to go anywhere.”
Republished with permission, (c) 2011 Det Norske Veritas
- USA: Busy December Ahead of Pacific Drilling’s Drillships (mb50.wordpress.com)
- Dolphin Drilling to Provide Two Drillships for Anadarko’s Mozambique Operations (mb50.wordpress.com)
- Guggenheim Partners announces Arctic investment fund (mb50.wordpress.com)
- “arctic oil” Norway mobilises for oil push into Arctic (mb50.wordpress.com)
By Walter Gibbs and Balazs Koranyi
OSLO, Nov 18 (Reuters) – Norway unveiled a 20-year plan to unlock offshore Arctic oil and gas resources and channel them to worldwide markets, a project the foreign minister said may cost billions of dollars and bring rivalries over Arctic resources to a head.
“It is the project of a generation,” Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere said in an interview. “As the ice melts, new transport routes are opening up, resources are becoming accessible and human activity is drawn to this region.”
The 134-page white paper said massive infrastructure building, research investment, a new fighter-jet fleet and careful diplomacy will help bring “a new industrial era in the high north”, including an island group where jurisdiction is contested.
Neighbours like Russia and the United Kingdom have already begun to challenge Norway’s claim of full tax and regulatory power in the potentially oil-rich waters off the Svalbard island group, halfway between Norway and the North Pole.
Last month Russia formally protested against Norway’s temporary seizure of Russian trawlers for fishing violations in what Moscow considers international waters, and populist Duma member Vladimir Zhirinovsky likened the actions to piracy.
Diana Wallis, a European Parliament vice president and Arctic affairs specialist, said she too questioned unfettered Norwegian control in the northern Barents Sea zone and that future oil exploration would magnify the dispute.
“At the moment there are gaps in the (jurisdictional) framework, especially in the scenario of an oil and gas boom,” she told Reuters.
A 1920 treaty gives Norway sovereignty over Svalbard and a tight ring of surrounding water on condition it impose minimal taxes and give all 40-some signatory nations equal access to the area’s bounty.
But Norway has since declared a 200-mile economic zone around Svalbard and says its autonomy over oil, gas and fish beyond 12 miles is unconditional — as in the Norwegian North Sea, where oil firms pay 78-percent income tax.
“It is Norway’s sovereignty and therefore it’s Norway’s responsibility to decide the rules,” said Stoere.
“Those that argue that our interpretation is wrong are free to take this to the Hague,” he added, referring to the International Court of Justice.
Stoere played down the potential for conflict, saying exploration off Svalbard is years away. “The oil industry is busy elsewhere,” he said.
A grand slam of oil and gas discoveries in 2011, including Statoil’s big Skrugard find in the western Barents, has energised Norway’s offshore oil industry.
And Russia’s anger over Svalbard did not stop it from signing a new sea boundary with Norway in the central Barents, freeing a promising zone for oil exploration on both sides.
Norway and Russia are both among the world’s largest gas exporters and oil exporters.
The northward movement of capital, infrastructure and manpower that Stoere envisions will meet little political resistance south of Svalbard, where Norway’s economic zones are unchallenged and Statoil already produces natural gas.
Today’s earth-observation satellite stations, F-16 fighter jet bases and oil-and-gas outposts in Norway’s sparsely populated high north are “only the beginning” of decades of growth and research to come, Stoere said.
By leveraging its oil wealth in public-private partnerships, he said, Norway will consider building a 1,400-kilometre extension of its North Sea pipelines to the Russian frontier to transport Barents gas to western Europe with spurs ashore to power mining and other new industry in northern Norway.
The white paper sees heightened military activity in the far north, including more NATO exercises and the planned purchase of 48 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters from the United States to replace Norwegian F-16s now stationed above the Arctic Circle.
“The government will enforce sovereignty and exercise authority in the north in a credible, consistent and predictable way,” Norway’s white paper says.
Political analysts said they have noted a pick-up in Russian naval and air force patrols across the Barents in the past five years, though far short of what was normal in the Soviet era. (Editing by William Hardy)
- Russia: Rosneft Gets Clearance to Buy More Offshore Assets in the Arctic (mb50.wordpress.com)
- Gazprom to Get Tax Break for Oil Exported from Arctic Offshore Field (mb50.wordpress.com)
- Norway: Aldous/Avaldsnes One of Largest Discoveries Ever, Statoil Says (mb50.wordpress.com)
- Norway: Skarv Start-Up Put Off for 1Q 2012 (mb50.wordpress.com)
Environmentalists fear the move by the privately held investment firm based in the US will accelerate exploitation of the region
Leo Hickman guardian.co.uk
Guggenheim Partners, a privately held investment firm based in the US, which manages more than $125bn worth of assets on behalf of its clients, has confirmed it is setting up a new fund dedicated to making investments in the Arctic region.
The news has been criticised by environmentalists who fear that it will further accelerate the exploitation by oil and shipping companies of the region which is being made even more accessible by climate change.
The fund was first revealed over the weekend at a conference held by the Juneau World Affairs Council in the Alaskan capital on the “politics of climate change“. Alice Rogoff, the publisher of Alaska Dispatch who is married to one of America’s wealthiest men, Carlyle Group co-founder David Rubenstein, told the conference that she had learned Guggenheim Partners was planning a fund “worth billions”. She added that it might concentrate first on building a privately funded icebreaker, which could then be leased to the US coastguard.
There have been growing calls in Alaska for a $1bn “heavy” ice breaker which could be used not just to help tackle any possible oil spills and perform search and rescue duties, but also further secure new shipping routes into the area. Shell confirmed last year that it is already building two of its own icebreakers in preparation of it being granted an extended permit to drill in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas from next year onwards.
Mead Treadwell, Alaska’s lieutenant general, said the fund was a “major announcement” for the region, adding that the Alaskan Arctic also currently lacks a deepwater port. Without such a port available, he said, oil companies would incur extra costs by having to supply a “flotilla” of support vessels when drilling at sea.
The Guggenheim Partners website posted a link to an Alaska Dispatch story about the fund, but a company spokesman refused to provide any specific details. “We are in the very early planning stages for an Arctic investment fund,” said Jeffrey Kelley. “At this point in time it would be premature to comment further about potential structure or investment parameters.”
A permanently secured route through the Bering Strait up into the Arctic would be a major boon to shipping companies and resource extractors. Last month, Nordic Bulk Carriers, a Danish shipping company, said it would save a third of its usual costs and nearly half the time shipping goods if a route to China was available through the Arctic instead of via the Suez Canal and the Indian Ocean.
Ben Ayliffe, an Arctic campaigner for Greenpeace, criticized the fund: “We shouldn’t be surprised that the industry which got us into the worst global economic crisis in living memory now has the planet’s last great wilderness in its sights. But, even by its own standards, it would seem exceedingly short-sighted to pour billions of dollars into the extraction of climate-changing fossil fuels just as scientists warn that the Arctic’s summer sea ice is entering what they call a ‘death spiral’.”
Greenpeace is campaigning for the Arctic to be better protected.
- Time to Take Alaska Out of the Icebox (gcaptain.com)
- Here’s Why You Need To Watch The Burgeoning Relationship Between China And Greenland (mb50.wordpress.com)
The two “islands” were found on the remote sea floor in international waters 1,600 kilometres (1,000 miles) west of Australia during a surveying trip last month.
Their rocks contained fossils of creatures found in shallow waters, meaning they were once part of the continent at or above sea level rather than created by undersea volcanic activity, said Sydney University geophysicist Jo Whittaker.
Whittaker, one of the key researchers, said she was particularly interested in exploring India’s drift first northwest and then sharply north, where its northeast coast, once joined to Australia, smashed into Eurasia, forming the Himalayas.
“We have a fairly good idea where those continents were but we don’t exactly know, the eastern Indian Ocean is one of the more poorly explored parts of the world’s oceans in terms of tectonics,” she told AFP.
“So it will help us figure out the plate kinematic motions that led to India moving away from Australia and heading up off to crash into Eurasia.”
Samples of sandstone and granite dredged from a steep cliff on one of the islands, about 2,000 metres (6,600 feet) below the ocean surface, are to be dated but the research team believe they are up to one billion years old.
The rocks will also be compared with samples from Australia’s west coast to try to determine where exactly the islands broke away from.
Similar matching was not possible with India because the relevant coast was now “smashed into the Himalayas somewhere,” said Whittaker.
India’s east coast was once adjacent to what is now modern-day Antarctica.
She likened the continental separation to pulling something “a bit gooey” apart and said the fragments, which are a fraction of the thickness of normal continental crust and combined about the size of Scotland, were the “little pieces that got left behind.”
“These pieces are probably not as thick as (continental crust) so they sit a little bit lower in the water, like something floating in the bath essentially,” she said.
Whittaker added that the fossil find was extremely lucky given the vastness of the area they were dredging.
“We’re excited to actually get some really good samples and very clear cut continental rocks which show that (the islands) are little fragments of Gondwana that were left behind as India moved away from Australia,” she said.
Plate tectonic theory is a relatively young science which was only recognised in the 1950s and experts were still trying to establish what made the continents move and change direction, she added.
Australia was moving northwards at a speed of about seven centimetres (2.75 inches) a year, likely due to a subduction zone along the Indonesian coastline where two plates met that was linked to the destructive 2004 earthquake and tsunami.
Antarctica, on the other hand, was not moving at all and Whittaker said discoveries like the Gondwana islands were critical.
“It’s very significant, it’s not every day you discover two large continental fragments on the ocean floor,” she said.
“Together with some of the other data this has the potential to change how we’ve been modelling that part of the world and that timeframe.”
- ‘Lost’ continent Gondwana sheds light on formation of world today (telegraph.co.uk)
- Secret of ghost alps of Antarctica revealed (telegraph.co.uk)