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Arctic Yearbook 2012
Shipping and Resources in the Arctic Ocean
This means that more than 1000 nautical miles, or some 30 per cent of the NEP between Murmansk
and the Bering Strait, is now kept open for shipping all year round. This stretch is what throughout
history has been labelled the
Kara Sea Route
. The driving force behind this achievement was the
prospects of increased revenues stemming from year-round shipments of nickel from Igarka. In 1980
this transport provided revenues. Today, modern ice strengthened oil and gas tankers ply the Kara
Sea Route along with the nickel industry. A clearly identifiable destination route has been established
across the politically defined geographical divide between the NSR and the NEP. In 2006, regional
transportation of hydrocarbons within the Barents and White Seas alone amounted to 8.5 million
tonnes (Frolov and Krutskih, 2008), which is four times more than the volume of cargo transported
through the rest of the NEP/NSR. Profitability is one decisive key to increasing shipping.
Independent estimates indicate an increase in transit cargo by 2020 of about 5-6 million tonnes per
year in the eastern direction and 2-3 million tonnes in the western direction (Ramsland, 1999). Other
estimates envisage that the volume to be transported along the NSR will increase from 1.5 million
tonnes in 2002 to 50 million tonnes in 2020 (Bambulyak and Frantzen 2009: 31). Oil and gas will
make up the bulk of this increase.
About 91 per cent of Russia’s natural gas production and approximately 80 per cent of her natural
gas reserves are in the Arctic. It is also estimated that 90 per cent of Russia’s offshore reserves of
hydrocarbons are in the Arctic (Glasby and Voytekhovsky, 2009). In May 2008, the US Geological
Survey (USGS) completed an assessment of undiscovered petroleum resources north of the Arctic
Circle. The assessment showed that the Arctic might contain about 22 per cent of all undiscovered,
technically recoverable oil and gas resources in the world. That is 90 billion barrels of undiscovered
oil, 1,669 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, and 44 billion barrels of undiscovered natural gas liquids.
Thus, the Arctic is supposed to account for about 13 per cent of undiscovered oil, 30 per cent of
undiscovered natural gas, and 20 per cent of undiscovered natural gas liquids in the world. Expressed
in oil-equivalency terms, undiscovered natural gas is assumed to be three times more abundant than
oil in the region. A significant accumulation of these resources contains recoverable volumes of at
least 50 million barrels of oil and/or oil-equivalent natural gas. As much as 84 per cent of these
resources are expected to be offshore and concentrated between the shoreline and the 500 meter
contour line and within the 200 nautical miles limit. In this assessment only those areas that were
considered to have at least a 10 per cent chance of one or more significant oil and gas accumulations
were included. The study included
only those resources believed to be recoverable using existing
technology, but with the important assumptions for offshore areas that the resources would be