A large tanker carrying liquified natural gas (LNG) is set to become the first ship of its type to sail across the Arctic.
The carrier, Ob River, left Norway in November and has sailed north of Russia on its way to Japan.
The specially equipped tanker is due to arrive in early December and will shave 20 days off the regular journey.
The owners say that changing climate conditions and a volatile gas market make the Arctic transit profitable.
…”The major point about gas is that it now goes east and not west,” says Gunnar Sander, senior adviser at the Norwegian Polar Institute and an expert on how climate change impacts economic activity in the Arctic.
“The shale gas revolution has turned the market upside down; that plus the rapid melting of the polar ice.”
He stresses that the changes in climate are less important than the growing demand for oil and gas.
“The major driver is the export of resources from the Arctic region, not the fact that you can transit across the Arctic sea.”
The oil shale boom in the US and Canada means there’s more than enough natural gas for domestic markets – while places like China and Japan are eager to buy. An ice-free Arctic makes that route far shorter and faster, and thus more profitable, than other export routes. At the same time, vast mineral wealth that has been buried under thick ice until now is becoming exploitable. And all of that will just serve to run the greenhouse a deal hotter.
The Great Game at the top of the world will now begin in earnest, transforming everything we think we know about geopolitics, national security threats, the environment and the energy economy.