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Prospects for the Development of the Icebreaking Industry in Russia

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Nowadays, it is known about huge deposits of gas and oil in the Arctic. That is why in recent years, questions about large-scale development of the Arctic are being actively discussed in Russia. We consider this topic very important and will try to investigate the problems connected with it as well as possible solutions. Since we are in Maritime Industry, we’re mostly interested in solutions in shipping and transportation of fossil fuels deposits. The development of Arctic deposits turned possible due to the improvement of drilling, pumping and shipping technologies. The oil and gas production and transportation to the countries of Europe and Asia through the Northern Sea Route (NSR) can become economically profitable.

However, the development of the Arctic zone of the Russian Federation, where there are virtually untouched reserves of minerals, is impossible without the urgent renewal of both the nuclear and diesel icebreaking fleet. Despite the sufficient number of machines, they all are quite old and must be either renovated or recycled in the near future. This opinion was aired by Vyacheslav Shtyrov, the chairman for the Arctic and Antarctic Council in the Russian Federation Gossovet. “Three of the four working nuclear-powered ships should be removed from the service in 2020 – 2022. Most of Rosmorport’s diesel-electric icebreakers are to be sent to recycling by 2017-2019,” the senator said.

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Considering the amount of work on the routes of the NSR, by that time it will be necessary to build at least three new-generation icebreakers. Some experts believe that Russia needs about 14 icebreakers, including 6 nuclear ones. However, according to Senator Shtyrov, the icebreaker fleet should be much larger. Construction of the icebreaker fleet is to be carried out within the framework of the implementation of federal targeted programs, but unfortunately many of these programs have not been realized since 1993. As it was mentioned earlier, at present the ship industry is experiencing a crisis, but we are able to liquidate it, because we have the advantage over other countries in the construction of special duty vessels. This advantage should become our main guideline in the promising development of the Arctic.

Now the project of the universal icebreaker LK-60Ya (project 22220) is being realized with a new-generation reactor facility, at the moment 3 vessels out of 5 planned have already been built. The icebreaker should provide year-round wiring of tankers, dry cargo ships and other transport vessels to the places of mineral development on the Arctic shelf. An important advantage of the ships built to project 22220 is the ability to work both in the open ocean and in the mouths of Siberian rivers, due to a two-draft construction (the icebreaker has two working drafts: 8.5 and 10.5 m). When the vessel pumps up the water into ballast tanks and settles for 2 m, such a vessel becomes a heavy icebreaker. When it comes to the mouth of the river and drains the ballast water, the ship flies and can work as a shallow-draft icebreaker. Making conclusions about the effectiveness of the two-draft icebreaker in the Arctic will be possible only after the start of its operation.

In addition, experts believe that it is necessary to start designing and building nuclear-powered icebreakers with a power on propeller shafts of 110 MW(LK-110Ya). Such icebreakers will be able to ensure the navigation of ships, both along the traditional and polar routes of the Northern Sea Route throughout the year. In general, 30% of the world’s gas reserves and 13% of oil are located in the Arctic region. Russia ranks first in oil and gas reserves on the Arctic shelf, but drilling in the Arctic is very expensive due to weak or completely absent coastal infrastructure. The installation of one platform on the shelf will cost $ 1-1.5 billion. The cost of each drilling platform will be 5-6 billion dollars. Nevertheless, the most important problem of Arctic development is not the lack of the necessary infrastructure or technological weakness, but the fall of oil prices.

Now the price of Brent oil is about $ 70 per barrel, while Russian companies are oriented at $ 100 per barrel. According to technical experts, the shelf will provide 30% of all Russian oil production by 2050. The extraction of the first Arctic oil is expected in 2018.The Russian Federation has all the advantages necessary for conducting research, so the development of the Arctic shelf is the main task for our country for the near future. To solve this problem, it is necessary to combine the technologies of the future with the traditions and technologies of the past, this is the main trend that we should strive for.

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