The Great Bear Rainforest is a 27,000-square-mile wilderness that stretches from southern British Columbia to the Alaska border. One of the last undisturbed temperate rainforests in the world, it is home to cougars, wolves, wolverine, grizzly bears, and the iconic Kermode, a unique subspecies of black bear with a recessive gene that is responsible for its fur being white. The rainforest is far from the sprawling oil sands mines of Alberta. But if the Canadian government, the Alberta government, and the Canadian oil and pipeline company, Enbridge Inc., have their way, vast amounts of tar sands oil will one day be coursing through a 731-mile pipeline to a shipping terminal in the Great Bear Rainforest. There, giant tankers will transport the oil through British Columbia's clean, frigid coastal waters to China and other parts of Asia. ________________________________________________________________
By Henry Huntington, Alaska Business Monthly - 1 DEC 2012
When it comes to energy and other development in the remote and challenging U.S. Arctic, science can be a particularly useful guide for making decisions. Part of the scientific process, after all, is taking into account not only what we know, but also what we don't know – and leaving a healthy margin for error. We can never know everything about an ecosystem or even a single species. Instead, we make estimates, assess our confidence in our knowledge, and ideally act with caution. Unfortunately, uncertainty can also be used as an argument to forge ahead rather than a reason to move wisely.
By Hannah Heimbuch, The Arctic Sounder - 30 NOV 2012 - Alaska/U.S.
Navy engineers set up shop across Alaska's Arctic last Wednesday for a first-time test of a critical communications system. The Navy was pleased to announce a successful transmission, one that connects individual radios across thousands of miles in inclement weather conditions. They were able to connect engineers in Barrow, Kotzebue and Anchorage, to Navy headquarters in Colorado and Virginia — all via handheld devices. "We provided the ability for personnel to communicate in the polar regions above the Arctic Circle and provide reach-back, a paramount capability that otherwise does not exist at the tactical level," said DTCS technical manager, Igor Marchosky in a Navy release. "We tested the global architecture part of the DTCS system, and it worked as designed."
In Case You Missed it: The team at the Institute of the North has been busy over the last two weeks exploring significant Arctic Infrastructure: first we hosted the Iceland Policy Tour - where Alaskans learned about geothermal and hydroelectric energy development; currently, staff are hosting the Arctic Infrastructure Workshop, also in Iceland - where colleagues from around the Circumpolar North are exploring Arctic maritime and aviation infrastructure and response capacity as part of the Arctic Council's Sustainable Development Working Group's project titled Arctic Marine and Aviation Transportation Infrastructure Initiative (AMATII).
The Logic of Expanding Rail Transport to Northwest Alaska
By Norman Stadem, InternBering, Former Resource Conservation and Development Coordinator, U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resource Conservation Service
When exploring infrastructure development in the Arctic, it is impossible to overlook transportation infrastructure and our ability to move around the North. Effective modes of transportation in the Arctic are important not only for convenience and accessibility to remote regions, but also for security and emergency-response, for communication and governance, and for trade. An ever increasing topic of discussion among Arctic nations, ideas for improving transportation infrastructure span a range of technologies. Take a look at this argument for increased railway development in rural areas of Alaska, where cost, control, and safety all seem to add up in support of railroads:
"Clearly, the critical imperative for Northwest Alaska is to build efficient transportation infrastructure networks in support of the vast regions of rural Alaska, in particular while costs remain relatively benign. It has been about a century since the federal government completed construction of the Alaska Railroad. Give or take a few miles, the track extends approximately 600 miles — Fairbanks to Seward. That's an investment of about 6 miles of mainline track per year over the past century. If Northwest Alaska is to experience future development, commensurate with its resource potential, there is no question that expansion of the statewide rail network is needed to "open" the country to efficient development. Economic development of modern and future Alaska must be supported with more modern, robust and efficient freight transport. Obviously, most passengers and "just-in-time" deliveries will likely prefer the convenience and speed of air travel. But for heavy, bulky or large volume materials, there is no substitute for the versatility, capability and efficiency of railroad." Read More...
A new report released by a House of Commons committee sheds light on the rocky road to resource development in the North. The report, called Resource Development in Northern Canada, says an inadequate energy system and a lack of skilled workers make the North a challenging place to invest. But some developers say unresolved land claims are what really stand in their way.
Russia Is Running Out of Cheap Oil International Herald Tribune - 5 DEC 2012 - Russia Rosneft's purchase of TNK-BP comes at a crucial time for the Russian oil industry — and for the Kremlin. If Russia is going to keep up production, it must now move on to places like the Arctic offshore and the remote tundra of East Siberia, places that are colder, harsher, farther out, and in a word, more costly. Russia is not running out of oil, but it is running out of cheap oil. That's where Rosneft comes in. By next year it will be the largest publicly traded oil company in the world, with over 54 percent of Russian production.
Iceland issues offshore licenses Offshore Magazine - 3 DEC 2012 - Iceland Iceland's government has provisionally awarded Faroe Petroleum operatorship of offshore exploration licenses under the country's second licensing round. These are in the Dreiki area, and comprise seven blocks south of the Jan Mayen ridge offshore northeast Iceland, within the Arctic Circle. The Jan Mayen microcontinent is between the conjugate margins of East Greenland and the Norwegian continental shelf.
Norway to Search for Oil in Dragon Zone Iceland Review - 3 DEC 2012 - Norway & Iceland Norwegian state-owned oil company Petoro will take part in the search for oil in the Dragon Zone off Northeast Iceland. The National Energy Authority of Iceland (NEA) completed the processing of application for licenses for exploration and production of hydrocarbons in the Dragon Zone today.
Yamal LNG ahead of schedule Barents Observer - 3 DEC 2012 - Russia According to regional authorities, the Yamal LNG company is ahead of schedule in its development of the huge Arctic project. Located along the Ob Bay, on the eastern shore of the Yamal Peninsul, the Sabetta port is a key component of the Yamal LNG project. When completed, reportedly in 2016, the port will handle specially designed Arctic LNG carriers shipping liquefied gas from the field to European, South American and Asian markets.
Feds give Mary River project green light CBC News - 3 DEC 2012 - Canada The federal government has given Baffinland's Mary River Project the green light to move ahead with its iron ore mine on north Baffin Island. Baffinland Iron Mines Corporation proposed the Mary River project, which would be a massive open-pit mine about 160 kilometres south of Pond Inlet. The project involves the construction of a road, a railway and a deep-water port and mine site infrastructure.
Will airborne windmills revolutionize rural Alaska energy? Alaska Dispatch - 3 Dec 2012 - Alaska/U.S. Increasingly, communities across the state are turning to wind turbines to help add diversity to fossil fuels and to lower costs. By this time next year, a new type of wind turbine may be hovering in the Alaska skies -- towerless and floated inside a high-tech helium balloon to an altitude as high as 1,000 feet. Boston-based Altaeros Energies has just landed a $740,000 grant from Alaska to give its invention a try in the 49th state.
IPCC chair lauds Finnish clean technology Yle Uutiset - 3 DEC 2012 - Finland Rajendra Pachauri, chair of the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, is visiting Finland this week. He is keen to remind people that heavier precipitation and wilder storms are inevitable in a changing climate. Ahead of a visit to the Energy and Resources Institute's northern office in eastern Finland, the professor lauded Finnish clean technology, but said there was much still to do in combating carbon emissions.
Flint Hills drops LNG Petroleum News - 2 DEC 2012 - Alaska/U.S. Although still amenable to using natural gas, Flint Hills Resources LLC is backing away from leading a project to truck liquefied natural gas from the North Slope to the Interior. The refiner recently terminated its memorandum of understanding with the electric utility Golden Valley Electric Association, citing the improved economics of its internal energy use as well as the belief that a third party should be leading any efforts going forward.
Trouble beneath the ice The Economist - 1 DEC 2012 As more and more companies venture into the oil- and gas-rich waters north of the Arctic Circle, they are being forced to imagine another oil-spill scenario, one in which the response effort is impeded by storms, fog, high winds and massive drifting ice floes; in which visibility is minimal, where the nearest coast guard station is over 1,000 miles away and where spilled oil accumulates on, in and under the ice. Such considerations have led to the development of new technologies to detect and deal with spilled oil in remote, icy seas.
Emails say Shell containment dome 'crushed like a beer can' in test Alaska Dispatch - 30 NOV 2012 - Alaska/U.S. Royal Dutch Shell's containment dome was "crushed like a beer can" earlier this year in Puget Sound, during failed sea-trial tests that raised questions about the oil giant's ability to respond to an oil spill in the U.S. Arctic Ocean. The beer-can observation belongs to Mark Fesmire, head of the Alaska office of the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE).
Kodiak legislators head to Iceland on Institute of North trip Kodiak Daily Mirror - 29 NOV 2012 - Alaska/U.S. & Iceland Kodiak's delegation to the Alaska Legislature, Sen. Gary Stevens and Rep. Alan Austerman, are in Iceland this week on a policy tour coordinated by the Institute of the North. Also included on the trip are students from the University of Alaska, policymakers and other legislators. According to accounts posted by the Institute of the North online, the Iceland tour is focused on energy policy and includes tours of hydroelectric and geothermal power plants.
The state-owned China Civil Engineering Construction Company (CCECC) will join the development of Belkomur, the railway connection between Perm and Arkhangelsk. The turning point in revitalizing the fifteen-year-old idea of establishing the connection was a meeting of Komi governor Aleksandr Burov with Chinese government and business representatives in Shanghai on the 23rd of November. The realization of the Belkomur project, with a price of €15 billion, would mean a shorter connection between the Urals and the North-West of Russia, allowing a new route for trans-Siberian cargo.
The Institute of the North is currently hosting a workshop on Arctic transportation infrastructure in Reykjavík. The focus of the workshop is response capacity and sustainable development in the Arctic. Increased capacity to respond by sea and air is considered necessary in light of increased shipping traffic in Arctic waters. The Arctic Council's Sustainable Development Working Group approved a project to assess transportation infrastructure which seeks to evaluate infrastructure, including ports, airports and response capability, by looking at maritime and aviation assets in the Arctic.
About 100 people walked across the Deh Cho Bridge near Fort Providence, N.W.T., Friday for its official opening. The bridge is the first year-round road link across the Mackenzie River to communities in N.W.T.'s North Slave region, including the capital Yellowknife. It replaces a ferry and a winter ice crossing. The 1 km-long bridge cost $202 million to build and has an expected design life of 75 years. Check out the video of the event.
Breaking the ice The Economist - 1 DEC 2012 Traffic is increasing on the Northern Sea Route, the icy passage along Russia's Arctic coast. Global warming has opened a route between Europe and Asia that can cut journey times by three weeks. This year some 50 vessels have made the voyage. The Ob River, which left Hammerfest in Norway on November 7th, is the first to carry liquefied natural gas. It is heading for Japan, where the Fukushima nuclear disaster has led to an increase in demand. Shale-gas discoveries in America mean that European producers are looking to Asian markets.
Tsiigehtchic, N.W.T., asked to conserve water CBC News - 29 NOV 2012 - Canada Residents of Tsiigehtchic, N.W.T., are being asked to conserve water after the community's pumping station broke down Monday. "All community members should have water in their tanks at this point, but we're just asking them to conserve what they have," said Marjorie Dobson, SAO of Tsiigehtchic's community corporation. At this time of year, the water truck cannot visit from Fort McPherson because the Tsiigehtchic ice crossing is open only to light traffic.
Nunavut Planning Commission set to tackle giant task CBC News - 29 NOV 2012 - Canada The Nunavut Planning Commission has begun to tackle the massive task of creating a single map to guide all future development in the territory. The task is daunting — Nunavut is more than two million square kilometres in size. It's home to huge deposits of gold, diamonds, metals, oil and gas. It's also where people have lived and hunted for generations.
Army closes Arctic airport Barents Observer - 29 NOV 2012 - Russia It appears to have come as a big surprise to regional authoritities when the Russian Defence Ministry decided to close the Tiksi airport, subsequently leaving about 5000 people living in the remote Russian town without their key lifeline to the outside world. In a meeting with Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu, Borisov was told that the airport was closed because of a necessary upgrade of the runway. The upgrade will start in 2013, and the airport will be fully back up running from 2015, Minister Shoigu said.
Mat-Su's ice-breaking ferry may have a job in the tropics Anchorage Daily News - 28 NOV 2012 - Alaska/U.S. The Mat-Su Borough wants to cut its losses and give the boat to the Northern Mariana Islands, a U.S. territory in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. The $80 million vessel, named the Susitna, was born out of a unique partnership between the U.S. Navy, which wanted a prototype for a fast military landing craft, and the borough, which wanted an ice-breaking ferry to transport commuters across Knik Arm. Neither Mat-Su nor Anchorage have landings for a car-carrying ferry, though the borough did build a $4.5 million ferry terminal.
Safety, Security & Sovereignty
Battle for Arctic key for Russia's sovereignty – Rogozin RT - 4 DEC 2012 - Russia Russia may lose its sovereignty in about 40 years if it fails to clearly set out its national interests in the Arctic, believes the country's Vice Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin. "It's crucially important for us to set goals for our national interests in this region. If we don't do that, we will lose the battle for resources which means we'll also lose in a big battle for the right to have sovereignty and independence," Rogozin stated at the Marine Board meeting in Moscow.
Arctic naval facility enters design phase CBC News - 4 DEC 2012 - Canada Progress is being made on the Nanisivik Naval Facility near Arctic Bay, Nunavut. Prime Minister Stephen Harper first announced the $100 million project in 2007. Earlier this year, plans for the facility were significantly scaled back. Officials blamed the high cost of building in the North saying the $100 million committed to the project won't go as far as predicted.
A completely new type of icebreaking emergency rescue vessel designed for demanding ice conditions will operate using the multilingual Metso DNA automation system. Metso Automation will deliver a control automation system for an icebreaking emergency and rescue vessel to be constructed by Arctech Helsinki Shipyard together with Yantar Shipyard. The owner of the vessel is the Russian Ministry of Transport who will operate the vessel in the Gulf of Finland.
Canada focuses on development at Arctic Council; experts fear wrong approach CBC News - 3 DEC 2012 - Canada Canada will use its two years as leader of the circumpolar world to promote development and defend its policies, suggest federal politicians and documents. But Arctic experts and those involved with the Arctic Council worry that's the wrong approach at a time when the diplomatic body is dealing with crucial international issues from climate change to a treaty on oil spill prevention.
Myers argues for UAF oil spill research Petroleum News - 2 DEC 2012 - Alaska/U.S. Although there has been much focus on the risks associated with exploratory oil drilling in the Arctic offshore, it is necessary to take a broader view of arctic oil spill contingency planning, addressing risks associated with general arctic shipping and looking at risk management for the future development and production of oil resources, Mark Myers, vice chancellor of research at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, told a meeting of the Alaska Geological Society. Myers has been promoting the establishment of an oil spill research center at the university.
Motorized infantry brigade to Northern Fleet Barents Observer - 30 NOV 2012 - Russia The Northern Fleet today announced that the 200. independent motorized infantry brigade will become part of the Northern Fleet. The brigade was planned to become one of two so-called Arctic Brigades, with soldiers trained in a special program and equipped with modern personal equipment for military operations in Arctic conditions. The Arctic Brigades were postponed until 2015, when Russia receives new vehicles designed for operations in the Arctic.
Canada and Kingdom of Denmark Reach Tentative Agreement on Lincoln Sea Boundary Foreign Affairs & International Trade Canada - 28 NOV 2012 - Canada Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird, the Honourable Leona Aglukkaq, Minister of Health, Minister of the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency and Minister of the Arctic Council for Canada, and Villy Søvndal, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Denmark announced that negotiators have reached a tentative agreement on where to establish the maritime boundary in the Lincoln Sea, the body of water north of Ellesmere Island and Greenland. This will resolve an issue between the two countries that arose in the 1970s. More here.
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