Arctic Development – Opportunities and Challenges

A Lastest News about Environmental Technologies in Finland

Posted on: 12 Mar 2013

Main opportunities extend from marine transportation and exploitation vast natural resources to tourism. But vulnerable environment and harsh conditions may complicate the development.

11 March 2013 The global warming is making the Arctic more accessible both to local inhabitants and international operators. Simultaneously, the climate change creates significant consequences for the sensitive environment as well as for livelihoods of local communities. © 2013 GRID-Arendal Arctic Development – Opportunities and Challenges By Pauli Jumppanen The concept of the Arctic region varies in its usage. It is often defined as the area north of the Arctic Circle, with the July isotherm below 10 degrees Celsius, or north of the northernmost tree line. Politically, the Arctic region includes the northern territories of the eight Arctic states: Canada, Denmark/Greenland, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden and the United States. A part of these territories belong to the subarctic region that Pauli Jumppanen took the Master of Science covers most of the northern taiga forest area and in Civil Engineering at Helsinki University generally locates between 50 °N and 70 °N of Technology (HUT) in 1962 and degree of Doctor of Technology in Materials Science latitudes. in 1971. He has worked as Professor of M Structural Mechanics at HUT, Director of oreover, the Arctic development is of growing the Structural Engineering Institute of VTT, and as CTO and VP for oil & gas and energy interest also to several countries not bordering the A business of Wärtsilä Corporation. Since 2004, rctic, including China, Japan, South Korea, India he has worked as independent consultant on and the member states of the European Union. new energy technology and business development projects. Most of the Arctic is covered by ice and snow for more than eight months a year, and a large part of the region is underlain by permafrost. But the conditions vary significantly between generally warmer coastal areas and colder and drier interior regions. In recent years, however, the global warming has changed the outlook on development of the Arctic region. Rising temperatures and the melting of sea ice are making the Arctic more accessible both to local inhabitants and international operators. Simultaneously, the climate change creates significant consequences for sensitive marine, coastal and onshore ecosystems as well as for livelihoods of local communities and of northern people. Minimum extension of polar ice on 12 September 2012. Source: NATO Two main economic interest in the Arctic are the development of marine transportation and exploitation its vast offshore and on-land natural resources. Major shipping corridors For commercial arctic shipping, two major navigation corridors have been considered. The Northeast Passage, known as the Northern Sea Route (NSR), extends from the Barents Sea to the Bering Strait along the coast of Russia, and reduces the shipping distance between major cities of Central Europe and the Far East by 30 - 40 %. The Northwest Passage (NWP) proceeds through the straits of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago and Greenland and creates the shortest shipping route from the North Pacific to the North Atlantic Ocean. The enclosed picture shows that, in reality, the both passages include several alternative transport corridors. The NSR was defined and officially opened for commercial use already in 1935. Since 1950’s, both the eastern and western part of the Route has been used for seasonal shipping, and since 1980’s also for regular year round shipping with the help of Russia’s nuclear powered icebreakers. In 1997, the Finnish ice- © AMAP2013 strengthened product tanker, Uikku, was the first western ship to complete the voyage from Murmansk to the Bering Strait successfully. Due to melting of sea ice, the NSR has been free of ice several weeks in August - November since the year 2005, apart from 2007. The period of ice-free navigation is expected to increase from around 40 days in 2011 to more than 120 days at the end of this decade. Moreover, the shipping season can be significantly extended using icebreaking support. In 2012, a record number of 46 ships, carrying 1.3 million tons of cargo, navigated the NSR within 146 days. The Finnish icebreakers Nordica and Fennica, when returning from the coast of Alaska to Finland, were the last vessels using the NSR in 2012. Fennica in Northern Sea Route: Photo: Arctia Shipping Some scientists predict that the entire NSR could be opened for year round commercial shipping already by 2030. But the Arctic conditions will remain challenging and the melting of sea ice unpredictable. The North West Passage, first time free of ice in 2007, may also become a significant international shipping route over the coming decades. The first ship transporting significant cargo through the NWP was a specially reinforced supertanker, Manhattan, in 1969, accompanied by a Canadian icebreaker. The Finnish company, Wärtsilä, was responsible for ice reserach and management for entire Manhattan operation. In a short term, the NWP could be used for transporting cargo from the U.S. east coast ports to Alaska and for servicing Canada’s northernmost communities. In longer term, however, exploitation of oil and gas reserves of Arctic Alaska and Canada as well as of offshore Greenland should create large scale transportation needs along several parts of the NWP. In addition, exploitation of minerals found in the Arctic provinces and islands of Canada and in western Greenland is likely to significantly increase the NWP shipping volumes. Huge natural resources Currently, some 10 % of the world oil and 25 % of the natural gas is produced in the Arctic, north of the Polar Circle. The Russian Arctic produces some 80 % of this oil and practically all of the natural gas. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the Arctic may hold up to 13 % (90 billion barrels) of the world's undiscovered oil and as much as 30 % (48 trillion cubic meters) of its undiscovered natural gas reserves. Those estimates do not even include so-called unconventional oil and gas resources in shale rocks or as methane hydrate layers in the sea bottom. In addition to abundant oil and natural gas reserves, significant volumes of different minerals, coal, peat, timber, fish and other biological stocks are found in the Arctic region. Furthermore, the Arctic holds one-fifth of global freshwater reserves, and several of the world’s largest rivers, with a great potential for hydropower construction, flow to the Arctic Ocean. Implementation of geothermal energy, wind power and tidal power are considered in a number of remote communities of the Arctic region. Arctic forests take 8.2 % of world’s total forest area, but only some 2 % of the global timber production comes from the areas north of the Arctic Circle. Windmill in Finnish Lapland. Photo: VTT Around 70 % of world’s coniferous forests locate in the subarctic areas of Russia and Canada, which can be attained through large Arctic rivers connected to the countries northern railway and road networks. Timber produced in the subarctic regions could then be transported to the world market via Arctic transport corridors. Wild marine fish catch accounts for 10 % of the world’s total fish harvest, but overfishing is already taking places in the Arctic sea areas. Today, fast shrinkage of the sea ice is opening new fishing grounds for which research-based management measures should be soon prepared. Subarctic river transport. © Ioan Alexandru Todor Economic drivers and viability Sustainability and economic viability are the basic requirements for the Arctic natural resources development. Today, main drivers to Arctic economic development are exploitation of its large oil and mineral resources and opening of Arctic transport corridors, firstly the NSR, for international commercial shipping. Development of the NSR is one of Russia’s top priorities in the Arctic. According to President Vladimir Putin, this will require the development of new Arctic seaports and terminals, regional aviation systems, river transport systems, Baikal-Amur and Trans-Siberian railways and other onshore transport connections. The Ministry of Transport of the Russian Federation estimates that the volume of cargo transported along the NSR will reach 40 million tons by 2020, and as much as 70 million tons by 2030. The new Northern Sea Route Administration started operation on 28 January, this year, in Moscow. The NSR shipping could become the first sector to achieve economies of scale in its operation. A ship traveling from Amsterdam to Tokyo can cut the sailing distance by 35 % or, alternatively, reduce its speed by 35 % and still arrive in Japan at the same time as a ship sailing at full speed through the Suez Canal. The both operations would result in lower fuel consumption, significant reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and, finally, in significant cost savings. Despite huge natural gas reserves, oil exploration seems to be of primary interest in today’s Arctic hydrocarbon development. This is due to high oil prices and advanced offshore drilling technologies in contrast to low market values and high transportation costs of natural gas. However, uncertainties are related to the profitability and timing of hydrocarbon exploitation that is the most risky sector of the Arctic resource development. For instance, Arctic natural gas is currently challenged by the shale gas production, notably in North America, and the Arctic oil will have to compete with synthetic fuels and unconventional oil reserves. Evidence of the situation is the decision to postpone the construction of the trans-Alaska gas pipeline as well as of the Shtockman gas field in the Barents Sea. Nevertheless, the development of condensate-rich natural gas fields could become profitable along with improved operational conditions and infrastructure support. In the next decade, the production and liquefaction of Arctic natural gas to be transported along the NSR could become as important as the oil business today. Ship consept for transporting liquefied natural gas. Photo: Aker Arctic Exploitation of new Arctic minerals and fish resources should also become profitable along with global warming and improved shipping conditions. Additional drivers to Arctic development are created by potential timber transports and trade along the large Siberian Rivers and the NSR and by exploitation of abundant biological resources of the Arctic seas. Tourism is, no doubt, a viable business sector in the Arctic. Tourists began visiting the Arctic already in the early 1800’s, and their attraction to the region is forecast to grow for several decades to come. Mining - from gold to rare-earth metals Russia makes most of the Arctic mining producing 40 % of world’s palladium, 25 % of gem quality diamonds, 10-15 % of nickel, cobalt and platinum and significant volumes of tungsten, copper, titanium and gold in its Arctic territories. Moreover, Russia extracts 25 % of world’s industrial diamonds, more than 10 % of apatite and close to 5 % of phosphates and vermiculate from the region. Arctic Canada and Alaska produce more than 10 % of world’s gem diamonds (mainly Canada), 5- 10 % of zinc and lead as well as good amounts of silver, gold and tungsten. In addition, new deposits of copper, nickel, platinum and antimony are being currently explored. The Arctic regions of Scandinavia and Finland yield iron, chromium, nickel, cobalt, copper and gold, and additional mining opportunities are currently under consideration. In the future, Arctic minerals will have a huge exploitation potential. Gold and other precious metals as well as diamonds are today the most wanted due to their high market prices. However, a special interest is now directed to rare-earth metals, like cerium, yttrium and lanthanum, due to their high-tech industrial applications. Outside China, rich rare-ear Oxides of rear earth metals. Photo: th metals Wikimedia Commons deposits are found, especially, in Greenland, Arctic Canada and the Kola Peninsula. Tough challenges may complicate the Arctic development Herds of reindeer and caribou are important resources for Indigenous Peoples in the Arctic. Photo: Arctic Centre The Arctic region is home also to hundreds of endemic species of plants and animals, millions of migratory birds and to large number of marine mammals. Herds of reindeer and caribou are important resources for Indigenous Peoples’ cultures and livelihoods in the Arctic. Should the Arctic natural resources be exploited, and which would be the terms and conditions for the Arctic development? For many environmental organizations, the Arctic is the last wilderness to be preserved, while to some industry sectors, it is the last frontier rich in energy and mineral resources to be exploited. The eight Arctic countries, including Finland, have expressed their Arctic development policies that highlight sustainable management and use of natural resources: * Adapting best scientific knowledge and low-risk technologies; * Taking into account environmental safety measures; * Respecting Indigenous Peoples’ rights and; * Recognizing national security concerns. From these perspectives, development of the Arctic region still has a long way to go. Lack of infrastructure - the largest obstacle There are political, technical and environmental obstacles which may complicate the global Arctic development. Political challenges are caused by territorial and maritime claims over the Arctic sea areas, disputed rights of trespassing some parts of the transport corridors, extended military presence in the Arctic and the lack of commonly agreed regulatory framework. Technical challenges arise, in general, from extreme climatic conditions that put specific requirements for equipment, materials and construction operations. Environmental concerns are particularly associated with prospective accidents and pollution that may damage Arctic ecosystems and local people’s livelihoods. The largest obstacle, however, is the lack of sufficient infrastructure to confirm viability, economy and safety of Arctic operations. Huge investments in infrastructure needed Until present, a number of institutions and industrial companies have already been working in the Arctic conducting research, developing new technologies, constructing equipment and performing exploration and production operations. But to fill existing gaps in the infrastructure and technology development, major investments in the Arctic are still needed. For example, Lloyd’s, London, estimates that the Arctic could attract as much as USD100 billion or more investment in hydrocarbon, minerals and shipping development, only in 10 years from now. The infrastructure development calls, for example, new seaports and terminals, local roads and railroads, regional airports, oil and natural gas pipelines, icebreakers and ice-going ships, operational and ice management systems, emergency and rescue centers, and settlements for workforce with basic supplies and services. As discussed earlier, Russia has already made commitment to establish sufficient infrastructure and services for commercial shipping along the NSR. Following this strategy, the Russian Government has decided to build three new nuclear and three new diesel-electric icebreakers for the use of the NSR, and to erect 10 emergency rescue centers in different locations of Russia’s Arctic. But still, in addition, hundreds of new Arctic ships, port and terminal facilities, equipment and services need to be constructed to meet future needs of the NSR navigation development. International cooperation necessary Huge investments in the Arctic development necessitate international co- operation for sharing best knowledge, acquisition new technologies and financing major infrastructure and natural resources development projects. An extensive program on scientific co-operation has already been launched by the Arctic Council with more than 80 projects already being implemented. Out of the Arctic countries, the Russian Federation has invited foreign and transnational companies to make investments and set up joint ventures to develop the transport systems along the NRS and to exploit newly discovered offshore oil and natural gas fields in coastal Arctic sea areas. Finland – a forerunner in Arctic technology Finland has built some 60 % of world’s icebreakers and a number of different types of ice-going vessels to be used both in Arctic and Antarctic waters. Other Finnish actors have decades of experience in Arctic technology development in different construction, mining, forest and mechanical industry sectors. A new icebreker in tests. Photo: Aker Arctic. Finland has a long history in Arctic technology development based on its location partly in the Arctic and partly in the subarctic climate zone. The Baltic Sea has been used as a laboratory for developing and testing technologies and equipment for Arctic activities. The Finnish state-owned icebreaker Murtaja, built in 1890 in Stockholm, was the first ship navigating the Baltic Sea in wintertime. The icebreaker Sampo, build in 1954 by the company Wärtsilä in the Helsinki Shipyard, was the first modern icebreaker helping the Finnish industry to become the world leader in the icebreaker development. Since then, Finland has designed and built some 60 % of world’s icebreakers and a number of different types of ice-going support and cargo vessels to be used both in Arctic and Antarctic waters. Other Finnish actors having decades of experience and knowledge in Arctic technology development are found, for example, in different construction, mining, forest and mechanical industry sectors. Many of the Finnish companies and institutions have now expressed their interests in participation, as partners or technology and service providers, in Arctic transportation and natural resources development projects. A major industry cluster is born around shipbuilding in Finland. Therein, the Helsinki Shipyard and Aker Arctic Technology are the leading companies in designing and building icebreakers, ice-strengthened support and cargo ships as well as different types of hybrid and multipurpose vessels. Other cluster participants produce marine power units, electrical propulsion systems, search and rescue centers and different aids to Arctic navigation, just a few to be mentioned. In some 20 years ago a new propulsion system Azipod® was introduced in Finland. In the system developed jointly by Kvaerner Masa-Yards dockyards and ABB, the variable speed electric motor drives the fixed pitch propeller that is in a submerged pod that can be rotated around its Az vertical axis to give the propulsion ipod's most important benefit is reduced fuel consumption and CO2 emissions. Photo: ABB thrust freely to any direction. The system improves vessel performance in ice operation. However, the most important benefit of the system is reduced fuel consumption and CO2 emissions. Companies belonging to the Finnish Cleantech Cluster offer maritime and environmental technologies that can be applied also to Arctic shipping, construction and energy generation projects. The companies’ equipment and services contain renewable-energy units, meteorological stations, ice and weather forecast systems, environment monitoring and data collection systems. For example, Vaisala is a global leader in environmental and industrial measurement. Building on 75 years of experience, Vaisala provides a comprehensive range of innovative observation and measurement products and Vaisala automatic weather station for demanding m services for chosen weather-eteorological applications. Photo: Vaisala related and industrial markets. The company serves customers in over 150 countries. Furthermore, the Finnish companies provide oil spill response technologies, waste and water management systems and a number of other facilities. Many of the equipment have already been successfully used both in Arctic and Antarctic offshore operations, but are equally well suited also to Arctic onshore construction, mining and hydrocarbon development projects For instance, Lamor develops, manufactures, and supplies best available technology oil spill recovery equipment and services around the world. The company also offers contingency planning, risk assessments, equipment maintenance and service coupled with training. Vessel for oil spill response operations. Foto: Lamor In late 2011, Lamor delivered a vessel that will be used oil spill response operations in the Barents Sea. Construction of oil drilling platforms and other offshore equipment, both for the Arctic seas and more southern waters, has been a significant activity of the Pori Construction Yard, with participation of other Finnish shipyards, since 1980’s. Today, the product portfolio of Technip Pori Yard includes fixed and floating oil drilling and production platforms, different platform modules and structures, offshore loading and mooring systems, flexible subsea pipelines and a number of offshore construction services. (kuva platform) Finnish construction companies have unique engineering resources for building Arctic ports, terminals, settlements, roads and bridges and other infrastructure items. Finnish forest industry companies have almost a century long experience in providing installations for mechanical and chemical wood processing both in the subarctic and Arctic climate. The companies also have extensive experience and skills in designing and manufacturing all basic types of harvesting and timber production equipment. For example, Ponsse provides forest machines for wood harvesting. The control system makes possible Harvesting in a subarctic forest. Photo: Ponsse. centralized operations supporting logistical control of the forest machine and the whole wood procurement chain. Out of many fields of Arctic research in Finland, the development low temperature materials should be especially mentioned. Well-known Finnish products are Arctic steels for shipbuilding and offshore & onshore construction designed for low temperatures, down to -60°C , and large winter- summer temperature variations. Low temperature steels are also needed to build Arctic natural gas pipelines that may carry compressed gas at -25°C under permafrost or at very low ambient temperatures. Other current subjects of low temperature materials research in Finland are different metal alloys, composites and lubricants. Finnish companies have become the leading designer and manufacturer of outdoor products and textiles for extreme conditions or “Arctic clothing”. One should remember, however, that local traditions and cultures of indigenous Arctic people offer solutions for housing, transporting, Finnish equipment and clothing (Halti etc.) on the North Pole ea “Huurre Expedition” in 1984. Photo: Markku Lepolating, clothing and for other means of living in the Arctic which may work better than latest technologies and newly developed high-tech materials. Related: Finland updates its Arctic strategy Russia approves Arctic development program Arctic states strengthen joint work to protect region EU Arctic Information Centre to become a reality Arctic - an opportunity for Finnish-Russian cooperation
Posted: 12 March 2013

See more from Environmental Technologies in Finland

Expert Views    
Finland - water management   By Teknotietamys Oy (Techknowledge Ltd.)
Environmental Technologies Overview   By U.S. Commercial Service
Helsinki low carbon block shifts to implementation   By Teknotietamys Oy (Techknowledge Ltd.)
Latest News    
EU funds commercialization of eco-innovation   By Teknotietamys Oy (Techknowledge Ltd.)
Impact of climate measures unclear   By Teknotietamys Oy (Techknowledge Ltd.)