The IX International Forum

Arctic: today and the future

December 05-07, 2019, St.Petersburg


How the Arctic wealth will be explored


How the Arctic wealth will be explored

In the next few decades Russia will actively increase its presence in the Arctic.  It is planned to implement there a large number of projects with a total investment of several trillion rubles. However, it will be difficult to develop the region.

Resources and Opportunities

The Arctic is extremely rich in natural resources. It contains 60% of Russian oil reserves and  natural gas, 40% of gold, 50% of platinum, 90% of manganese, 80–90% of chromium, 100% of diamonds.

Almost all diamonds and apatites, 50% of copper, 100% of nickel, cobalt and platina, 60% of oil are mined in the Russian part of the Arctic. The cost of undeveloped reserves of mineral raw materials in its depths is higher than $ 30 trillion. At the same time, the degree of exploration of many fields remains extremely low. Moreover, there are still a lot of white spots on the map of the Arctic. And the level of exploitation of the mineral and raw material base of the region is extremely small which does not match the capabilities of the Arctic and the tasks of Russia's economic development – it accounts for only 10% of profits and 20% of the country’s exports.

The development of the Arctic can’t be implemented simultaneously – it is a long and difficult process. And there are the whole complex of infrastructure and logistics issues that must be solved in order to speed it up significantly.  For instance, specifics of the economy and industry of the Arctic which are focal due to the remoteness of its industrial centres from key railways and highways. Great expectations are on the Northern Sea Route which runs along the Arctic and the Pacific Ocean and significantly shortens the delivery of goods from west to east. Its length is 5.6 thousand kilometers, while the route from St. Petersburg to Vladivostok is more than 23 thousand kilometers.

The Northern Sea Route is not fully used.  In 2017 it transported almost 10.7 million tons, in 2018 – 18 million tons. «Today the agenda is to increase cargo traffic to 80 million tons by 2024», - Sergey Khrushchev, Director of the Department of State policy and Regulation of Hydrometeorology of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Ecology of the Russian Federation, said on the International conference «The Arctic: Shelf Projects and Sustainable Development of The Regions».

The old ways are the best ways

Of course, the development of the Northern Sea Route is not only one decision for the development of the Arctic. It is necessary not only to maintain in good condition existing sea and river ports, roads, but also create the new ones in order to provide delivery of the constructional materials and equipment, provision of locals and the export of mined minerals. It is important to take into consideration that construction of railway or highway will cost much more expensive in exceedingly extreme climate conditions of the Arctic than in the central part of Russia.

Airships that were widely exploited in the 1920–1930s can help significantly. «Recently I visited in the  Dolgoprudnenskoe Design Bureau of Automatics, they are ready to construct them. They have technologies, machines, all necessary materials, but they need for support from the government in order to start production, firstly, for the Arctic, – First Deputy Prime Minister of Yakutia Andrey Fedotov told.

According to him, Yakutia can be a kind of testing ground for airships that can lead to considerable benefits - it will be possible to obtain costly fuel savings of about 30% when delivering goods to the remote northern areas.  They can help to preserve the fragile nature of the Russian North, because traces left by the all-terrain vehicles in tundra have remained unchanged for decades.  Airship can moor in the air and it doesn’t need parking on the ground.

By the way, tourism also can be incredibly profitable in the Arctic. That’s why the Vodokhod Company is intended to organize tours for foreigners and ordered several ships from Finland.

Wealth underfoot

There are a lot of paradoxes in the Arctic. «We develop liquefied natural gas projects, but coal is still being imported into the Arctic», – Sergey Khrushchev declared.  Indeed, boiler-houses of cities and towns, automobiles and all-terrain vehicles can be functionate by gas.

Meanwhile, extraction of hydrocarbons in the Arctic is increasing. Last year it produced 25 million tons in oil equivalent. And existing reserves and forecast resources allow raising it due to the large-scale operations at the bottom of the Arctic Ocean. Conducted researches have already revealed evidence.

«Every 20 km we see gas spots. They are small and their role is likely negative than positive», – Deputy Director of Oil and Gas Research Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences Vasily Bogoyavlensky reported.

The fact is that such formations can cause sudden emissions of gases that can sink a ship or cause a fire on a floating drilling platform.

Also, accumulations of gas hydrates were identified in the Arctic. These are promising and not yet developed sources of natural gas that can compete with traditional hydrocarbons due to their wide occurrence, shallow occurrence and resource availability. There is only one minus – they can explode easily and there are no technologies for their safe mining. Nevertheless, they are the future of global energy.

That’s why it is important not only to explore and develop natural resources in the Arctic, but also study them comprehensively. Then they will bring maximum benefit to our country.

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