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Montevideo, June 25th 2024 - 12:21 UTC



Russia claims to have found huge oil reserves in Antarctica; UK feels it could mean a complete new ball game

Tuesday, May 14th 2024 - 10:26 UTC
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Junior Foreign Minister David Rutley said that Russia has given a commitment to abide by the Antarctic Treaty. Junior Foreign Minister David Rutley said that Russia has given a commitment to abide by the Antarctic Treaty.

The House of Commons’ Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) held a special session on Russian oil exploration in the polar region, following on claims that the Rosgeo oil exploration company had reported that its research vessel Alexander Karpinsky has completed a comprehensive subsurface geological survey, mapping very promising oil and gas prospects on the Antarctic oil shelves.

The inquiry saw three ministers grilled on Russian oil prospecting activities in Antarctica, which are believed to fall within the UK’s claimed territory in the region. The Alexander Karpinsky vessel studies were part of the 65th Russian Antarctic expedition and covered the southeastern part of the Riiser-Larsen Sea off the coast of Queen Maud Land, an Antarctic region claimed by Norway.

According to UK media reports, EAC heard that since 2011, Russian seismic surveys have been happening off the Weddell Sea, which falls under the UK’s claim in Antarctic territory. According to Rosgeo, its surveys have revealed approximately 500 billion barrels (70 billion tons) of hydrocarbon potential in the Southern Ocean’s basins.

Junior Foreign Minister David Rutley said that Russia has given a commitment to abide by the Antarctic Treaty. In 1976, the treaty nations signatories decided to impose a moratorium on the exploration and exploitation of Antarctic minerals, taking a precautionary approach to protecting the region.

But it is also true that some countries such as Russia have continued with mineral exploration under the guise of scientific research, which is permissible under the treaty. In total, Antarctica has seven historic claimants including Argentina, Australia, Chile, France, New Zealand, Norway and the UK. However, these claims of ownership were suspended for half a century when the Antarctic Treaty was negotiated in 1959, and reiterated again in 2009, making Antarctica an enormous no man’s land.

But governance of the earth’s polar regions has come under immense stress since Russia invaded Ukraine in 2022. Experts have warned that the worsening relationship between Russia and the West could culminate in competition rather than collaboration in conserving the integrity of Antarctica. This has already started to manifest, with China and Russia blocking attempts by other Antarctic treaty nations to expand marine protected areas in the region.

“Russia’s collection of seismic data in Antarctica construed as prospecting signals a potential threat to the permanent ban on mining, with knock-on implications for the integrity of the protocol in its entirety. In 2048, there is scope for potential change to the protocol but there are strict rules and pre-conditions that shape that scope. But the current Russian activity is troubling,” Klaus Dodds, Professor of Geopolitics at the University of London informed EAC in a written submission.


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  • FortHay

    This is a misleading article in several ways. MSN also headlined 'finding huge reserves'. To start, the accompanying image is of some floating or semi-sub drilling rig, not the vessel Alexander Karpinsky, which looks like this:
    Second, seismic surveys are only the first step in identifying 'potential' (key adjective) horizons for drilling. While it is not unlikely that the Antarctic continent has reserves of hydrocarbons, only actual exploratory drilling can prove that. Seismic features showing trapped underground liquids are unable to differentiate between water and oil, although an anomaly with a gas cap will show up clearly. Until and unless the world's governments agree to modify the Antarctic treaty, Russia is quite unable to unilaterally drill or produce there. For that, a stable and reliable air and naval base, such as Stanley (mmh) is needed.

    May 14th, 2024 - 05:03 pm 0
  • notlurking

    Article is to make Russia look bad...the big bad wolf waiting to take more oil to their gas

    May 14th, 2024 - 07:27 pm 0
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