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Tip of the iceberg

Published by , Senior Editor
LNG Industry,

Approximately 25% of the world’s proven reserves of oil and gas lie under the Arctic, which is a tough and expensive place to exploit energy. However, sooner or later, the world is going to need that energy, and the Yamal project now under development is the first full scale exploitation of high Arctic gas fields.

The high Arctic is a special environment in terms of climate, sensitivity and politics, so each project to extract energy from it will be different. Nonetheless, it is possible to analyse the risks and difficulties that all such projects will face, and then consider the specific solutions that have been chosen on a case-by-case basis.


The three partners in the Yamal project – Novatek, Total and China National Petroleum Corp. – aim to export 16.5 million tpy of LNG, using ships to transport it to Europe year-round, and also to Asia via the Northern Sea Route (NSR) in summer months.

Yamal is in the high Russian Arctic, which has an annual average temperature of -9°C, with winter temperatures falling to -57°C. There is ice cover for 300 days of the year and wind speeds may reach 32 m/sec. There is permafrost down to a minimum of 300 m, and an extremely sensitive and vulnerable local ecosystem.

Working together

The first rule of tackling a project on this scale is that nobody can do it alone. Designing ships to operate in such conditions and stay safe requires a wide range of input, combining local expertise and experience with sophisticated and rigorous risk analysis, software development, shipbuilding expertise and a number of specific studies. The Yamal solutions combine the ship design and building expertise of South Korea’s Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering (DSME) with the ice and cold winter experience of the Russian Register (RS) and Bureau Veritas (BV). BV, in turn, worked with Finland’s Aker Arctic, France’s Gaztransport & Technigaz (GTT) and the State Maritime University of St Petersburg on developing podded propulsion standards for heavy ice, containment systems for ice navigation, and tools for ice load assessment, respectively.

Main challenges

The main challenges for any vessel navigating in Arctic areas are the obvious cold temperatures, which make life difficult for personnel, equipment and structures. In addition to this, the local environment…

This article was originally published in the December 2016 issue of LNG Industry. To read the full article, sign in or register here.

Written by Philippe Cambos, Bureau Veritas Marine & Offshore Division, France.

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