Climate change helps Russia ship LNG over Arctic without ice-breaker

26 Aug 2017


For the first time, a Russian shipping company's specially built tanker was able to transport liquefied natural gas across the Arctic without an ice-breaker.

For environmentalists the development held special significance given that they have been warning that rising global temperatures, which affect the poles much more than other parts of world, will melt Arctic ice.

While it has opened up an easier transport route across the Arctic, it comes with risk of oil spills in pristine environments. The development opens up fossil-fuel reserves that were not accessible previously, which would likely add to carbon emissions-and in turn more thinning of ice, according to commentators.

''This is the paradox of climate change,''  Ben Ayliffe, a campaigner for Greenpeace told CNN. ''The fossil fuels we're burning are allowing access into areas that were previously protected by ice.''

According to commentators, though Arctic route operations require high insurance coverage and large fees, the savings on time of travel make it well worth it. The ship travelled from Norway to South Korea in 19 days flat -about 30 per cent faster than the more commonly used route, through the Suez Canal.

According to commentators, this would lead to some fuel savings in transportation, but will also make natural gas slightly cheaper and thus incentivise its burning.

The $300-million Christophe de Margerie transported cargo liquefied natural gas (LNG) from Hammerfest in Norway to Boryeong in South Korea in 19 days, about 30 per cent quicker than the conventional southern shipping route through the Suez Canal.

The tanker was designed for the route to deliver gas from a new $27 milion facility on the Yamal Peninsula, the biggest Arctic LNG project so far which was pushed by the Russian president, Vladimir Putin.

The innovative tanker used its integral icebreaker to cross ice fields 1.2m thick, passing along the northern sea section of the route in the Russian Arctic in a record six-and-a-half days.

''It's very quick, particularly as there was no icebreaker escort which previously there had been in journeys,'' said Bill Spears, spokesperson for Sovcomflot, the shipping company which owns the tanker, told The Guardian. ''It's very exciting that a ship can go along this route all year round.''

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