The CSS Blog Network

Deconstructing the Narrative of Arctic War

The Royal Navy Trafalgar submarine HMS Tireless at the North Pole, courtesy TimWebb/flickr

This article was originally published by the World Policy Institute on 9 March 2016.

In many public debates around the globe, the narrative of ‘”Arctic War” has become the predominant narrative of the future of Arctic security:

Driven by climate change, the Arctic ice cap is melting and large amounts of untapped oil and gas resources as well as lucrative shipping routes are becoming increasingly accessible. As a part of their response, Arctic states are making far reaching territorial claims in order to secure this tremendously rich treasure, and some, especially Russia, are emphasizing their regional ambitions by increasing their military capabilities in the High North. Trapped in an unavoidable arms race, the Arctic states are on a slippery slope toward military confrontation.

While advancing this narrative, supporters too easily apply interest-driven predictions of an uncontrollable arms race in the High North. Interestingly enough, one region seems to be exempted from this trend: the Arctic itself. This either means that the Arctic is “sleepwalking” into “unavoidable military escalation,” blinded by its long history of cooperation, or that it is worth taking a second look at the “narrative” of Arctic War.

Natural Resources, Territorial Claims, and Militarization?

First, what would be the source of a potential Arctic conflict? For many observers this seems to be very clear: economic interest. In 2008, a U.S. Geological Survey considered the Arctic to contain most of the world’s still undeveloped oil and gas. In addition, as the ice melts, lucrative shipping routes, like the Northwest Passage and the Northern Sea Route, are becoming more and more accessible. Since then, nearly every national submission to the extension of the Arctic state’s continental shelf (and thus the right to exploit the resources in the seabed) is considered a “provocative,” sometimes even “offensive” act.

» More

Arctic Oil On Life Support

Mars Ice island, Beaufort Sea Alaska. A 60 day exploratory well built offshore, 8 km off Cape Halkut near NPR-A. Image: SonicR/Wikimedia

This article was originally published by Oilprice.com on 1 February, 2015.

Oil companies have eyed the Arctic for years. With an estimated 90 billion barrels of oil lying north of the Arctic Circle, the circumpolar north is arguably the last corner of the globe that is still almost entirely unexplored.

As drilling technology advances, conventional oil reserves become harder to find, and climate change contributes to melting sea ice, the Arctic has moved up on the list of priorities in oil company board rooms.

That had companies moving north – Royal Dutch Shell off the coast of Alaska, Statoil in the Norwegian Arctic, and ExxonMobil in conjunction with Russia’s Rosneft in the Russian far north. » More

Tajikistan: Potential Energy Boom Could be Geopolitical Game-Changer

Colorful Old Oil Barrels. Image by L.C.Nøttaasen/Flickr.

There’s a potentially huge story developing in Tajikistan: Central Asia’s poor cousin may be sitting atop a vast pool of oil and natural gas. Yet, no one in Dushanbe – neither government officials, nor energy company executives – seems eager to discuss the prospect of an energy boom.

In July, Tethys Petroleum announced that its development zone in southwestern Tajikistan could hold over 27 billion barrels of recoverable oil equivalent. The estimate, if accurate, would represent more than the remaining oil in United Kingdom’s North Sea field. In a July 19 press release, Tethys boss David Robson asserted that Tajikistan had “super-giant potential.”

It’s not just Tethys – a company listed on both the Toronto and London stock exchanges, and registered in the Cayman Islands – that seems to believe in Tajikistan’s energy-production potential. Russia’s state-controlled conglomerate Gazprom has already started drilling a 6,300-meter well to reach what it hopes to be more than 60 billion cubic meters of natural gas, while Australian-based Santos is starting seismic studies after acquiring a 70-percent share in Tajikistan’s Somon Oil.

But since that initial burst of fanfare announcing its potential oil find back in July, Tethys executives have become tight-lipped. Representatives of the company repeatedly declined to speak on the record to EurasiaNet.org on oil and gas-related issues in Tajikistan. Gazprom and Santos are similarly reticent. » More

LNG from PNG

You may know that Papua New Guinea (PNG) is a tropical country located on the world’s second largest island in Oceania. You may also know that most of PNG’s 7 million inhabitants live in rural areas. You could call PNG a developing country: In the 2007 Human Development Index it is ranked 148 of 182, between Kenya and Haiti. You may know that PNG is rich of natural resources, including precious metals, timber and oil. What you would not expect, however, is PNG to be a major hydrocarbon producer.

Well, it’s time to revise your knowledge.

In a joint venture with firms from Japan, Australia and Papua, ExxonMobil plans “to develop gas fields in the Southern Highlands and Western Province of PNG and transport the gas via pipeline to an LNG (liquified natural gas) facility near Port Moresby (the capital) for shipment to markets overseas. The project will provide energy for the Asia-Pacific region, jobs and economic benefits for PNG.”

Economic benefits indeed; the question is for whom. According to a study, the project will double the country’s GDP and increase its exports of oil and gas four-fold. This gigantic endeavor – total capital investment is thought to amount to $10 billion, which is as much as the country’s annual GDP – raises two questions. First: Why is PNG’s oil and gas only now being exploited so intensively? Second: What is the project’s overall impact on PNG and its people?

The PNG LNG project / Illustration: screenshot from www.pnglng.com

» More