Sailing from Norway to Japan, the Ob River, a large tanker carrying liquefied natural gas, is making the first arctic crossing of its kind during the winter months thanks to sea ice melt, and shale gas. The BBC reports that the Russian energy company Gazprom leased the specially equipped tanker from the Greek company Dynagas. The ship can carry up to 150,000 cubic meters of LNG. The arctic passage will shave 20 days off the journey, and reduce fuel costs by 40 percent. Here’s more from the BBC on the role of shale gas:
But melting ice is not the only factor. A major element is the emergence of shale gas in the US.
The Norwegian LNG plant at Hammerfest was developed with exports to the US in mind. But the rapid uptake of shale in America has curbed the demand for imported gas.
Meanwhile in Japan, in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster, there has been a growing interest in alternative power sources, especially gas.The retreating ice is opening up new sea routes from the Atlantic to the Pacific
“The major point about gas is that it now goes east and not west,” says Gunnar Sander, senior adviser at the Norwegian Polar Institute and an expert on how climate change impacts economic activity in the Arctic.
A nuclear powered ice breaker is tagging along on the trip.