In a development that could further advantage OPEC members as they step up production to compensate for falling exports out of Venezuela and (potentially) Iran, the Barents Observer is reporting that two of Russia’s largest Arctic out-shipment points for oil and LNG have become “packed with ice” leaving tankers and carriers stranded in the “paralyzed” area, which hasn’t been this packed with ice at midsummer in four years. Experts had expected that ice clogging up the Gulf of Ob would melt with the summer months, allowing Rosatomflots, the state-owned energy company responsible for the region, to avoid relying on their nuclear-powered icebreakers to clear the area.
According to Rosatomflot, its icebreakers will be working at least through the first week of July to free stranded ships from the ice. Two icebreakers, the Taymyr and the Vaygach, are working overtime. There are also several smaller tugs and icebreakers working in the waters around the Sabetta port.
One Rosatomflot representative pointed out that the climate change fears which had analysts worried about rapid melting of ice caps in the Arctic have apparently receded.
The global warming, which there has been so much talk about for such a long time, seems to have receded a little and we are returning to the standards of the 1980s and 1990s, says company representative Andrey Smirnov.
Companies shipping from the area have in recent years invested in building more powerful tankers capable of breaking up the ice on their own. The projects are expected to ratchet up exports from the region by the equivalent of millions of barrels of oil per year.
The Yamal LNG plant is fully dependent on smooth shipping to and from the port of Sabetta. A fleet of 15 powerful top ice-class carriers are being built for the project. The ships are capable of independently breaking through more than two meter thick ice. Commercial shipments from Sabetta started in early December 2017.
Further south, company Gazprom Neft is operating the Novy Port project, which is built to be able to deliver up to eight million tons of oil per year. A fleet of six tankers are being built for the Novy Port. The first vessels of the new fleet, the Shturman Albanov and the “Shturman Malygin” were put on the water in early 2016. The third fleet tanker, the “Shturman Ovtsyn” set course for the history books when it in mid-winter 2017 left the yard of the Samsung Heavy Industries in South Korea, made it through the Bering Strait and sailed all the way to Yamal. Later, also the Shturman Shcherbinin and the Shturman Koshelev webre built.
To help put the ice-pack in perspective, the blog Climateer Investor published a pair of heat-coded images showing the extent of the sea ice thickness in June 2018…
…Compared with June 2008 – a decade earlier.
So much for “global warming”…