The oil and gas resources of the Arctic regions in Russia are the world's biggest energy reserve outside the OPEC countries. Due to their geographical location they are an important source in meeting the energy need in Europe. There are a number of alternative routes for conveying oil and gas: direct pipelines, shipments across the Baltic Sea and direct carriage by ships along the Western part of the Northern Sea Route. All of these alternatives must be further developed to increase security of supply and cost-efficiency. The ARCOP project aims to develop an alternative that will make use of the Northern Sea Route.
The environmental safety of shipping has lately become a central issue in transport by sea. European energy supply cannot be built upon a transport system that would cause an environmental hazard. Critical assessment of environmental safety is one of the priorities of the ARCOP project, while the economics of transport dictates the viability of the transport solution developed.
Within the framework of ARCOP, the project sought for technology-based cost-efficiency for the entire transport system. The laws and agreements regulating transport play a key role in terms of both economy and environmental safety. ARCOP aims to map out and give recommendations for the legislative basis to be applied. An open discussion between the various interested parties is the best way to take the development in a direction that satisfies all the parties concerned. Discussions based on research and development and drafting of common recommendations are essential elements within ARCOP.
- Development of collection methods for ice information and ice forecasts with a view to choosing transport routes.
- Assessment of the rules and regulations on transport by sea and of insurance and payment systems.
- Development of a united transport system for Arctic oil and gas transport.
- Development of the environmental impact assessment method and the environmental hazard management system.
- Trial in practice of the solutions developed and recommendations given during an actual transport assignment.
- Organisation of expert meetings between industry, authorities and representatives of technology to direct the project, to assess the results and to give recommendations.
ARCOP project results have proven that oil and gas transportation by the Northern Sea Route is technologically possible and economically feasible. In general ARCOP managed to achieve most of the strategic objectives:
- several requests to continue the activity between EU and Russia beyond ARCOP
- common understanding of the legal status of the Artic sea routes
- clarity to the consistency to the regulatory basis of the Arctic Shipping in
- different factors like technology, fees, efficiency of the border formalities and the way icebreakers are operated influence the overall economics
- development of common recommendations on a number of topics.
Due to the low temperatures normally found in the Arctic and the presence of ice, existing response equipment needs to be modified to operate under harsh conditions ('winterisation'). This may include improved ice processing, reduction of icing/freezing (heat supply), transfer of recovered products (including ice), and separation of oil from ice.
ARCOP results formed a basis for the workings of the Arctic Marine Shipping Assessment (2005-2008) by the Arctic Council. The safety issues including environmental protection should be further looked into. The readiness for accidents must be further developed and all safety-related factors have to be taken seriously.