Providing coverage of Alaska and northern Canada's oil and gas industry
August 2017

Vol. 22, No. 33 Week of August 13, 2017

LNG carrier plying Northern Sea Route

New Russian vessel for use in Arctic waters can cut through up to 1.5-meter sea ice without the need for an escorting icebreaker

Alan Bailey

Petroleum News

An ice-capable Russian LNG carrier, the Christophe de Margerie, is following the Northern Sea Route around the Arctic coast of Russia, in route between the Norwegian Barents Sea and South Korea, the Barents Observer has reported. The vessel is carrying LNG from Statoilís Melkoya gas terminal on the Barents Sea coast. On Aug. 1 the vessel entered the Kara Sea, the Barents Observer said.

The vesselís icebreaking capabilities mean that it can sail in Arctic waters without an icebreaker escort. According to the website for Russiaís Yamal LNG project, the Christophe de Margerie is the first of 15 ice-capable LNG carriers being built for the Yamal project, a project involving the operation of an LNG terminal on the Yamal Peninsula in the Kara Sea. Gas will come from the South Tambey gas field. LNG production will likely begin later this year, according to the Barents Observer.

The Yamal project website says that the new LNG carriers will be able to operate year round, without icebreaker support, traveling west from Yamal in the winter and east in the summer.

Powerful vessel

According to Sovcomflot, the Russian company that owns the new vessel, the 299-meter vessel has power comparable to that of a modern nuclear-powered icebreaker and can cut through ice up to 1.5 meters thick. The vessel has a double-acting design, meaning that, as well as moving forward through ice in a conventional manner, it can drive in reverse through ice that is particularly heavy.

The vessel is named after a former CEO of French oil company Total, one of the companies involved in the Yamal project. Christophe de Margerie died in a plane crash in Moscow in 2014.

People have sometimes considered the possibility of shipping LNG from Alaskaís North Slope by sea, rather than through the use of an overland gas pipeline to tidewater in Southcentral Alaska. However, one of the major challenges for the sea-route option is the shallow water depths around Alaskaís Arctic coast. A marine LNG terminal would presumably need to be located some distance offshore, where water depths are greater.

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