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Sixth Arctic Frontiers Conference, in Norway This Week

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Troemso, the world’s northernmost university city, is hosting the 6th international conference on Arctic development, "Arctic Frontiers", this entire week. Its focus is the development of energy resources, in which Norway has moved fast to become a leading player in the Far North gas fields. Troemso is on the coastal islands on the Norwegian Sea/Arctic Ocean.

Norway excels in offshore Arctic expertise, as well as for oil and gas exploration and extraction, spearheaded by its state companies, Statoil and Gassco. Over the last two years, Norway has concluded treaty agreements with Russia, for the right to prospect in parts of the central Barents Sea, and for joint search-and-rescue operations with Russia. Norway is also hosting Arctic research stations run by China and India. Both on Spitsbergen, China’s science station has been in operation since 2004, and India’s is three years old.

One of the first keynote speeches of the Troemso conference came from the Russian participants, delivered by Alexei Titovsky, head of the administration of the Yamal-Nenets autonomous region in Siberia. Their share of proven reserves of natural gas is enormous. For example, the Yamal Peninsula natural gas resources in the Bovanenkovo Field (4.9 trillion cubic meters), plus the resources of the offshore Shtokman Field (3.8 tr cu m) together exceed all the proven resources of the United States. The Yamal-Nenets region has Russia’s major gas fields and is the country’s leading fuel and energy base. It produces 40 percent of gas consumed by Europe. Alexei Titovsky said that even though demand is growing, the estimated volume of the resources still untapped in Yamal alone, could supply most of what the entire world consumes at this point.

The infrastructure question is foremost. In its most limited, "energy-boom" fashion, there is hot debate in Norway on the comparative merits of constructing a new, 1,000-km pipeline to bring Arctic gas from the Far North to Europe, as against building new liquid natural gas (LNG) ports. But the broader question is posed, for building infrastructure for higher levels of productive existence in the North and internationally.

In a report on the Troemso conference, Russia’s state-run radio, Voice of Russia, emphasized the crucial importance of developing infrastructure, in terms of Russia: "It’s impossible to explore the Far North without the development of the transport infrastructure, aviation and railroad links. At present, the choice is very small. A significant amount of cargo is delivered to the Peninsula by sea during the Summer navigation. A 525- km-long railway line is now being built to supply cargo throughout the year."

As for the naval transport aspect, the ports in the city of Naryan-Mary and villages of Indiga, Amderma, and Varandei are presently serving the Yamal project, which Russia has divided up into three industrial zones.

All of this, naturally, is only a first, small step, which has to be followed by a much broader approach on infrastructure development, like that which has been taken by the LPAC Arctic Development/World Land-Bridge perspective.