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Symposium 2012

Solution for Exploring Energy Resources in the Arctic Ocean

The Challenge

As temperatures rise with a changing climate, Arctic sea ice melts. As a consequence, the once ice-covered Arctic Ocean becomes increasingly accessible, with implications for various economic sectors. ...

As temperatures rise with a changing climate, Arctic sea ice melts. As a consequence, the once ice-covered Arctic Ocean becomes increasingly accessible, with implications for various economic sectors. In particular, the oil and gas resources below the seafloor have whetted the appetite of the littoral states—Canada, Denmark, Norway, Russia and the United States—as well as outsiders, such as China and the European Union, which are developing or rethinking their Arctic strategies.

Limit drilling to the least risky regions, where there is no ice or little enough ice to make effective ice management possible.

A moratorium on production of oil and gas in the whole Arctic Ocean will not be accepted by the littoral states. But the history of offshore drilling accidents in other (easier) regions of the world suggests that they are a realistic possibility. Whatever contingency plans there may be, it is doubtful that they will be adequate to the challenge of a distant, icy and dark environment. Most conventional measures will be ineffective for fighting a spill the Arctic.

Since a complete moratorium seems to be unrealistic, limiting production to places with favorable ice conditions is the minimum that is advisable. Ice conditions have to allow at the very least for effective management of icebergs and floating ice, including ridges, using existing technologies, such as ice breakers, and building production facilities that can be quickly and safely disconnected.

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