Mark Collins – Arctic: NW Passage Commercial Shipping Long Way Off/No Shell

Let’s just all calm down a bit:

Sea ice still too thick for Arctic shipping route

Despite climate change, sea ice will continue to make the Northwest Passage too treacherous to be a regular Arctic shipping route for decades, says study.


View larger. | Northwest passage routes, via Wikipedia.

New research from York University predicts that it will be decades before the Northwest Passage will be a viable route for regular commercial shipping. Despite climate change, Arctic sea ice remains too thick and treacherous, says the study, published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters on September 25, 2015…


For commercial shipping, the potential benefits of a clear Northwest Passage are significant. The Northwest Passage is a much shorter route for moving goods between the Pacific and Atlantic regions than the Panama and Suez Canals. Ship routes from Europe to eastern Asia would be 4,000 kilometers (2,500 miles) shorter. Alaskan oil could move quickly by ship to ports in the eastern United States. The vast mineral resources of the Canadian North will be much easier and economical to develop and ship to market.


In the past few years, as the climate has warmed, it’s been speculated that shrinking Arctic sea ice coverage might open the passage for increasing periods of time, to allow regular commercial traffic to pass through the Arctic Ocean via this once impossible route. At the moment, this year’s annual summer minimum Arctic-wide ice coverage is the fourth lowest on record, with similar low coverage in the Northwest Passage, according to information provided by the Canadian Ice Service [website here].


But the York University researchers say the ice is still too thick for a regular commercial passage to be viable. Next to ice coverage and type, the researchers said, sea ice thickness plays the most important role in assessing shipping hazards and predicting ice break-up…


Bottom line: New research published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters on September 25, 2015 predicts that it will be decades before the Northwest Passage will be a viable route for regular commercial shipping. Despite climate change, Arctic sea ice remains too thick and treacherous, says the study.



More here on Arctic shipping.  As for Shell’s offshore drilling north of Alaska:

Shell to Cease Oil Exploration in Alaskan Arctic After Disappointing Drilling Season

Company becomes latest big oil player to abandon region amid low crude prices


That should reduce environmental worries–and alleviate fears of conflict sparked by resource grabs:

 

Russia Submits Revised Arctic Seabed Claim to UN Body


Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds

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13 thoughts on “Mark Collins – Arctic: NW Passage Commercial Shipping Long Way Off/No Shell”

  1. Big oil picture, more on Arctic:

    “Yesterday [Sept. 29], the Northern Lights went out: The Arctic and the future of global energy

    Shell is not the only company to experience setbacks in the Arctic. Italy’s ENI SpA and Norway’s Statoil ASA just yesterday had another regulatory setback due to delays in obtaining permission from Norway to commence production. In June, a consortium including Exxon and BP PLC suspended its Canadian Arctic exploration, noting insufficient time to begin test drilling before the expiration of its lease in 2020. In addition, Exxon had to curtail its plans to drill in the Russian Arctic after the United States imposed sanctions on Moscow and its energy industry following the annexation of Crimea.

    Russia, though, remains active in the Arctic, and it can be assumed that once sanctions are lifted, many oil companies will try to gain a toehold. China, Korea, India, and Singapore, among other countries, have expressed interest in gaining access to the region’s mineral, energy, and/or marine resources. In several cases, they are building ice-worthy vessels to give them the capability to do so. The Bering Strait is emerging as a significant new maritime route in desperate need of enhanced regulation…”
    http://www.brookings.edu/blogs/order-from-chaos/posts/2015/09/30-shell-postpones-arctic-drilling-ebinger

    Mark Collins

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