Saturday, April 19, 2014

Gazprom Neft ships the first "Arctic Oil" from Prirazlomnoye, site of the Arctic Sunrise protest last fall

GCaptain and others report that on Friday, April 18, Gazprom Neft shipped the  first 70,000 metric tons of "Arctic Oil" from its Prirazlomnoye platform. Platts reports that the Prirazlomonoye field,  some 60 km offshore the Pechora Sea, "is expected to reach its peak output of some 6 million mt/yer, or 120,000 b/d, by 2020."

According to Reuters, President Putin, speaking by video to workers on the platform, stated:  "This, in essence, is the beginning of great and large-scale extraction of minerals and oil by our country in the Arctic." 

Russian environmental groups, among others, have expressed concern about Russia's ability to operate the remote platform safely. The Greenpeace protest there last fall led to the crew's detention, its vessel's impounding and the Netherlands request for provisional measures from the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS). On November 22, 2013, ITLOS ordered the release of the Arctic Sunrise and the detained persons upon the posting of a bond. Russia did not appear at the hearing, having rejected the tribunal's jurisdiction. For more on the jurisdictional aspects of the case see this ASIL Insights posting. The crew have all been released; Greenpeace filed a formal petition for the vessel's release on March 3, 2014.

Icebreaking into the Arctic

The USCGC HEALY embarked Barrow, Alaska, in August 2008 to map the US extended continental shelf, or ECS, in the Arctic Ocean (HLY 0805). Healy sailed again from 7 August to 16 September, 2009 (HLY 0905) to continue ECS mapping, joining with the Canadian icebreaker, the Louis S. St.-Laurent. The two vessels mapped together again in 2010 (see HLY1002) and 2011 (HLY1102).

As the only law professor on the science crew, I was along on HLY 0805 and 0905 to better understand
the science behind the legal process that the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea establishes for states making ECS submissions. As to why the US is mapping now, even though it has not yet acceded to the Convention, read on both here, and in the Law of the Sea notes below.

Thanks to
Vermont Law School and especially to Larry Mayer, Director of the University of New Hampshire's Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping, for making my part in the trip possible.
Thanks, as well, to Adriane Colburn, for opening new windows on and for the deep.