A Russian gas tanker has made the world’s first gas delivery after crossing through Arctic waters.
The liquid natural gas (LNG) carrier made the trip through the Northern Sea Route (NSR) with the help of Russian nuclear icebreakers and ice-pilots.
Russia’s state oil firm Gazprom commissioned the ship, recently re-named the Ob River in a nod to the world’s seventh largest river which runs from Siberia into the Arctic Sea, to take the gas from Norway’s Snohvit terminal to the Tobata terminal in energy-starved Japan.
It is likely the journey was possible because melting ice made the conditions more favourable, according to the ship’s Greek owner Dynagas, whose commercial director Tony Lauritzen told the BBC the trip used 40% less fuel than it otherwise would have done.
The energy giant says the round trip of the vessel from Asia to Europe and back has shown it is both physically and commercially possible to use the Arctic route for LNG.
Frédéric Barnaud, Executive Director at Gazprom Marketing & Trading said: “Never before has LNG been transported via this route. This huge achievement is the result of the LNG and Shipping & Logistics teams at GM&T working together with our partners to make this happen. The importance of opening up the NSR as a viable alternative to our customers fully complements our commitment to the fast growing Asian LNG market which is a key area of growth for the Gazprom Group.”
The waters of the Barents and Kara Sea were mostly ice-free, according to the firm, while young ice of up to 30 cm was encountered in the passage between Vilkitskogo and Bering Strait.
Oil and gas experts at Ernst & Young said this project would not have any effect on market prices in the short term. Andy Brogan, Global Leader Oil & Gas Transaction Advisory Services said: “In order for this to have an impact on LNG pricing it would have to become a much more regular occurance and there would have to be LNG available for shipment to Japan. As this is some time away this is more of a demonstration of what may be possible than a signal of an imminent shift in market dynamics.”