(CBC News via Eye on the Arctic, 5 April 2012) -- The Mackenzie Valley pipeline, an energy megaproject in Canada's North that has been proposed and debated for decades, has been put on hold again. The 1,196-kilometre line would have transported natural gas from the Beaufort Sea to North American markets. The partners behind the proposed $16.2 billion projected halted development because of low prices for natural gas. ConocoPhillips said Thursday that the five partners in the energy development consortium have suspended funding for the project, which would have transported up to 1.2 billion cubic feet of natural gas a day. The partners include an aboriginal group funded by Calgary-based TransCanada Corp, Exxon Mobil Corp., Royal Dutch Shell Plc and Imperial Oil Ltd., also of Calgary. ConocoPhillips said the decision was made in the first quarter of this year. "The co-venturers elected to suspend funding of the project due to a continued decline in market conditions and the lack of acceptable commercial terms," it said in a release. The announcement follows a decision less than a week ago by ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips, BP and TransCanada, to work toward developing natural gas reserves on Alaska's North Slope, which would be assessed as an alternative to a natural gas pipeline through Alberta. The state of Alaska has offered up to $500 million in incentives to build a pipeline there. The National Energy Board approved the Mackenzie Valley project in December 2010. The price of natural gas, already at a 10-year low, fell further Thursday after the U.S. government reported a surprisingly large increase in supply. Gas for May delivery fell four cents to $2.11 per thousand cubic feet in New York at midday. The government said supplies expanded last week to a level that's 60.5 per cent higher than the five-year average.
Posted 7 April 2012; 1:17:22 PM. Permalink
(Euractiv via Environmental News Network, 7 April 2012) -- Norwegian and Russian energy relations might be put at risk when it comes to the exploration and acquisition of untapped energy resources in the Arctic with both countries increasing their militarisation in the area, according to Stratfor, an Austin, Texas-based global intelligence company providing geopolitical analysis and commentary. "Norwegian Defence Minister Espen Barth Eide indicated March 28 that the Norwegian army 2nd Battalion would be renamed the "Arctic Battalion" and equipped to patrol the country's Arctic territory. ... The Arctic, which is estimated to hold vast untapped oil and natural gas reserves, has become more relevant to geopolitics over the past decade. ...Norway and Russia have been highlighting their territorial claims in preparation for potential mineral extraction. Competition in the Arctic will strain the countries' relationship, though a hard break in relations is unlikely as long as both benefit from bilateral cooperation, such as between their state energy companies, Statoil and Gazprom. However, Norway will work to contain Russia's influence in the Arctic by strengthening its military partnerships with other countries in the region. Norway's latest plans are part of a decade-long programme to modernise its military, with a stronger focus on the Arctic and Russia.... Russia ... has been operating along routinely for decades, [and] already has strong military capabilities there. Despite this militarisation, Russia and Norway continue their cooperation in the energy sphere. Lacking significant offshore arctic drilling technology, Gazprom relies on Statoil's technological capacity to develop Russia's Shtokman project in the Barents Sea.... The countries also continue a cooperative military relationship, exemplified by the POMOR annual naval exercises held in May. The true test of this working relationship in the Arctic will be the exploration and acquisition of untapped energy resources. At that point, the extent of the cooperation between Statoil and Gazprom will be an important indicator of the countries' wider bilateral relationship."
Posted 7 April 2012; 1:14:33 PM. Permalink
(ScienceNordic, 7 April 2012) -- The halibut is a popular delicacy among seafood lovers. But perhaps the pretty slices and the fine texture of this fish shouldn’t be taken for granted in the future. During filleting work, Greenlandic fishermen recently noticed that a specimen of Greenland halibut was full of strange cavities and holes that resemble shot wounds. The mysteriously infected fish was sent to the Laboratory of Aquatic Pathobiology at the University of Copenhagen, where researchers examined the holes in detail. They discovered that the Greenland halibut had been infected with a hitherto unknown parasite, which creates circular holes in the fish muscle. “At first glance it was impossible to see why the holes had appeared,” says Professor Kurt Buchmann, of the Laboratory of Aquatic Pathobiology at the Department of Veterinary Pathobiology at the University of Copenhagen, who headed the study. “But when I took a closer look through a microscope, I could see that the holes actually consisted of cartilage containing millions of tiny parasites of a previously unknown type. According to the professor, the holes emerged as a result of the parasites attacking cartilage elements in the fish’s skeleton. The cartilage reacts to the infection by swelling dramatically and transforming into long, circular cylinders that go straight through the fish’s musculature and make it appear riddled. ... The parasite has not been described before, neither by fish researchers nor parasite researchers. But its shape reveals that it is of the type Myxobulus – a parasite that’s characterised by being very small and rounded. Since Myxobulus hasn’t previously been observed in the halibut, the researchers knew they were dealing with a new species within Myxobulus. “Detailed DNA analyses also revealed that the newly-discovered projectile parasite was not present in the gene bank for parasites. Moreover, it differed greatly from other known types of parasites.” Although the projectile parasite has hitherto been completely unknown, it is not a newcomer. ”It has probably existed for millions of years – it’s just not been discovered by scientists until now.” Although the parasite makes the delicate fish flesh appear a bit less appetising, Buchmann stresses that it poses no threats to humans.
Posted 7 April 2012; 10:57:24 AM. Permalink
(RIA Novosti, 5 April 2012) -- Russia intends to spend around 1.3 trillion rubles ($44 billion) on economic and social projects in the Arctic until 2020, the Russian minister for regional development, Viktor Basargin, said in an interview with the government daily Rossiiskaya Gazeta published on Thursday. The state budget is expected to provide some 503 billion rubles ($17 billion) to create new transportation corridors in the Arctic, develop new hydrocarbon deposits and social infrastructure, improve living standards of local population, maintain the environment and culture of indigenous peoples, the minister said. Another 724 billion rubles ($24.5 billion) is planned to be taken from regional budgets, he said. Businesses are expected to provide another 80 billion rubles ($2.7 billion). The figures are yet to be confirmed. Arctic territories, seen as the key to huge untapped natural resources, have increasingly been at the center of mounting disputes between the United States, Russia, Canada, Norway, and Denmark in recent years as rising temperatures lead to a reduction in sea ice, providing access to lucrative offshore oil and gas deposits. Russia is planning to deploy a combined-arms force by 2020 to guard its political and economic interests in the Arctic.
Posted 7 April 2012; 10:37:00 AM. Permalink