Russia pushing ahead with Arctic development in new strategy document

Publish date: March 5, 2013

Written by: Anna Kireeva

Translated by: Charles Digges

MURMANSK – Russian President Vladimir Putin unveiled the country’s Arctic development strategy through the year 2020, which highlights energy exploration, infrastructure upgrades and national security. The administration also promised to maintain the Arctic environment.

The Strategy (in Russian) characterizes the region as one of extreme natural and climactic conditions, with poor ecosystem sustainability, low population density, and only patchy industrial development.

These regions lack a contemporary technical base for the exploration and tapping of hydrocarbon resources at sea, and their transport, industrial and energy infrastructures are worn.

“The Arctic zone is prone to undeveloped energy systems, an irrational structure of energy generation, high costs for energy generation and transmission of electricity, low productivity of labor, high power consumption, and low effectiveness for recovering natural resources,” the Strategy reads.

There is also a severe lack of technical means for study, development and use of Arctic zones, and insufficient preparation to pursue more innovative development within the scientific sphere.

All of these issues must be addressed, according to the Strategy, and this will be done via “systematic cooperation of the state, commercial and non-commercial organizations and civil society.

Destroyed nature and strategic potential

The Russian Arctic has already accrued its share of environmental bruising. Additionally, technological development and anthropogenic sources are adding to its environmental load. The Arctic region is also home to a number of potential sources of radioactive contamination.

At current, the Arctic zone is furnished with some 11 percent of the countries national expenditures even though less that 2 million people, or some 1.4 percent of the total population.

The area is viewed as strategically important for the recovery of minerals and hydrocarbons, and also may become a shipping traffic corridor of world significance.

The Arctic’s oceans possess enormous biological resources  – its fishing alone supplies 15 percent of Russia’s seafood supply.

Hydrocarbon resources

The resource base of Russia’s Arctic zone is capable of supplying the country’s demand for hydrocarbon resources, biological resources and other strategic raw materials. It is therefore planned to organize an integrated study of the continental shelf and near shore territories and prepare to develop hydrocarbon raw material supplies on the basis of the government’s exploration plan of the continental shelf.

By 2020, it is planned to develop the Timano-Pechora oil and gas provinces and the hydrocarbon fields on the continental shelf in the Barents, Pechora, and Kara Seas as well as the Yamal and Gydan Peninsulas.

Reserve funds 

The Strategy document also refers to the Russian governments plans for a reserve fund of fields in the Arctic zone. This fund will supposedly become a guarantor of the countries future energy security and assure sustainable development of the fuel energy after 2020.

It is assumed the fund will include a number of unallocated strategic land-based oil fields estimated to hold more than 70 million tons, but the fund will mainly concentrate on shelf projects.

According to the Neft-Rossii news portal, there is as yet no criteria for distributing the unallocated land based fields. On the shelf, all fields have been allocated to Russian gas monopoly Gazprom and state oil company Rosneft.

Implementing the strategy

All activities described in the documents are divided into two stages. The strategy says that by 2015, it is assumed an international rights formulation of internal borders of the continental shelf of Russia and the Arctic will be developed.

By the same time, the government must prepare materials necessary for review to the UN committee on borders on the continental shelf.

It is planned that a number of programs guaranteeing environmental will also be completed. The priority will be on liquidating past ecological consequences, including rehabilitation of Arctic Seas from nuclear and radiological hazards. 

The second stage, prior to 2020, will be devoted to the transition of Arctic regions to sustainable, innovative socio-economic areas, as well as achieving “decreases as well as prevention of negative impacts to the Arctic zones of the Russian Federation.”

The Strategy emphasized that at all stages of its implementation, measures will be taken toward rational used of resources and preservation of nature in accord with its systematic integrated scientific research.