Tech Talk - A Russian Update and the OPEC MOMR

The Arctic is a less forgiving place than many folk care to recognize. Shell has just moved back the date on which they plan to restart drilling in the Chukchi Sea and won’t be going up there this year. At the same time, Gazprom announced last August that the development of the Shtokman gas field off the Russian coast and also in the Arctic had been put on an indefinite delay. Yet the region still shows considerable promise. ExxonMobil and Rosneft have agreed to exploration in the Chukchi, Laptev and Kara Seas, with the latter considered as possibly having the highest potential.

Figure 1. Location of the Kara and Laptev Seas. (Google Earth)

The blocks that will be explored are south of the island of Novaya Zemlya, in relatively shallow water. They lie north of the Yamal Peninsula, and the Shtokman field is on the other side of the island.

Figure 2. The locations of the East Prinovozemelsky blocks south of the island of Navoaya Zemlya (Rosneft)

Rosneft estimates that the recoverable reserves are 6.2 billion tons of oil, and a total of 20.9 billion tons of oil equivalent when the natural gas content is included. The first wildcat well is scheduled to be drilled in 2015.

While Gazprom and Rosneft share access to these offshore resources, Lukoil has found a site at Khatanga Bay in the Laptev Sea where it believes that it can be successful. Despite the difficulties, the need for Russia to sustain production is forcing the companies offshore into more difficult waters, where the future production lies, and the Russian economy needs the income.
The February OPEC Monthly Oil Market Report notes that Chinese demand has now topped 10 mbd on a quarterly average, the highest to date and growing at 6%. The greatest increase has been in the use of gasoline. Global demand is anticipated to top 91 mbd by the end of the year. Russia is anticipated to produce some 10.42 mbd on average this year. OPEC has, however, a few caveats:

The Vankor oil field is expected to average 435 tb/d in 2013, a minor increase from the level of 410 tb/d achieved by the end of 2012. Some operators provided that new technologies will be utilized to stop natural decline. On the other hand, the supply forecast remains associated with a high level of risk, due to technical, political, geological and price factors. On a quarterly basis, Russian oil supply is expected to average 10.43 mb/d, 10.42 mb/d, 10.42 mb/d and 10.42 mb/d, respectively. Preliminary figures indicate that Russian oil production stood at 10.46 mb/d in January, steady from the previous month.

As usual, it is interesting to compare the OPEC production results for the last few months, based both on the reports obtained from secondary sources, and those numbers that the individual nations provide.

Figure 3. OPEC crude production based on secondary sources (OPEC February MOMR )

It is important to note that Saudi Arabia has dropped its production by around 300 kbd or so for the last couple of months. While I suspect this is to keep markets a little tighter and thus hold prices stable, others might suggest that the Saudis may have some slight difficulty sustaining the higher numbers.

Figure 4. OPEC oil production figures as reported by the producing countries. (sources (OPEC February MOMR )

While Iran continues to have a disparity of around 1 mbd between the two tables, Iraq still seems to be struggling to get over 3 mbd, and Venezuela has a discrepancy of around 400 kbd. In short, not much new.

Turning back to look for just a moment at Gazprom activities - although they have continued to keep Lukoil out of the Arctic, they have also continued to seek resources abroad. The company has acquired territory in Iraqi Kurdistan and is reported to have an 80% stake in the Halabja project with reserves of around 700 mb. The field lies on the Iranian border in the Kurdish part of the country, and Baghdad objected to the deal going forward. It might, however, help raise Iraqi overall production. Gazprom has two other projects in the region at Garmian and Shakal, and one at Badra which falls under the control of the central government.

Also in Middle East oil news, Gazprom is in talks with Israel to buy LNG from the offshore Tamar field and ship it to Asia to serve markets that it cannot easily reach with its pipelines. The intent is to use a floating liquefaction plant that will take gas from both Tamar and Dalit, at the rate of around 3 million tons a year with production starting in 2017.

Gazprom recognizes that, if it is to develop Asian customers it must provide LNG and so it has begun work on an LNG plant in Vladivostock with three trains, each capable of producing 5 million tons of LNG a year, from the Sakhalin, Yakutia and Irkutsk gas fields. With production aimed to begin in 2018, the market will, again, be in the Asia-Pacific region and may be one of the reasons to accelerate production from the Kovyktinskoye field. At the present time Gazprom has brought the Zapolyarnoye up to full production, and they estimate this will produce 20% of Russian natural gas as the field moves to be the largest producer in the country.

And, while tracking down some of the information for this post, I did find a picture of a polar bear and cub in the region that ExxonMobil is venturing into. It was taken on the island of Novaya Zemlya. Hopefully environmental concerns won't raise the same sort of difficulties in developing these sites that they have in other places further East.

Polar Bear and cub on Novaya Zemlya on the Shores of the Kara Sea (the photo is on Google Earth and was taken at the red arrow in Figure 2 by

Oh, and before I forget, the Alaska pipeline continues to run below 600 kbd with an average of 577, 604 bd. for January.

Regarding the Kara Sea: " Hopefully environmental concerns won't raise the same sort of difficulties in developing these sites that they have in other places further East."

I suppose these are different environmental concerns than in the past...

Nuclear dumping

There is concern about radioactive contamination from nuclear waste the former Soviet Union dumped in the sea and the effect this will have on the marine environment. According to an official "White Paper" report compiled and released by the Russian government in March 1993, the Soviet Union dumped six nuclear submarine reactors and ten nuclear reactors into the Kara Sea between 1965–1988.[5] Solid high and low-level wastes unloaded from Northern Fleet nuclear submarines during reactor refuelings, were dumped in the Kara Sea, mainly in the shallow fjords of Novaya Zemlya, where the depths of the dumping sites range from 12 to 135 meters, and in the Novaya Zemlya Trough at depths of up to 380 meters. Liquid low-level wastes were released in the open Barents and Kara Seas. A subsequent appraisal by the International Atomic Energy Agency showed that releases are low and localized from the 16 naval reactors (reported by the IAEA as having come from seven submarines and the icebreaker Lenin) which were dumped at five sites in the Kara Sea. Most of the dumped reactors had suffered an accident.[6]

The Soviet submarine K-27 was scuttled in Stepovogo Bay with its two reactors filled with spent nuclear fuel. At a seminar in February 2012 it was revealed that the reactors on board the submarine could re-achieve criticality and explode.[7]

I suppose one just needs to be careful where one drills :-0

 photo newrussia_arkhangel464x350_zps3f39fd38.gif

Yeah Ghung, good point.Novaya Zemlya, as everyone knows was also the site of the world's largest nuclear test explosion, the Tsar Bomba. It appears the area could be a real hotspot in the future for many reasons

Regarding the Kara Sea: " Hopefully environmental concerns won't raise the same sort of difficulties in developing these sites that they have in other places further East."

I suppose these are different environmental concerns than in the past...

That would be correct. The nuclear concern is eclipsed by the threat of runaway methane releases from the warming arctic, both underwater and from the tundra. That someone from the TOD can be cavalier about polar bears and miss the issue of human survival in the face of giga tons of uncontrollable carbon release is beyond the pale.

Robbing our descendants' last few barrels of oil from the arctic sea incurs the risk of having no descendants at all, and bringing untold misery on the last generation of humans :: struggling first with water and food shortages, and if some survive even that, then oxygen depletion as the Amazon turns to desert and the oceans die.

If we still have time to turn off this race to the bottom, it will be incumbent upon a few peaksters to join the ranks of the climate scientists.

"That someone from the TOD can be cavalier about polar bears and miss the issue of human survival in the face of giga tons of uncontrollable carbon release is beyond the pale."

Not sure who you're refering to, and pointing out one environmental concern certainly doesn't negate others. Regarding oil extraction and humanity's system of priorities, I doubt any of this is of great concern to those who stand to profit. I'm sure they only view polar bears and poking holes through a nuclear waste dump as short-term liabilities. That this area is, or at least adjacent to, one of the largest nature reserves on the planet will only be of secondary concern to the Russians. Revenues trump the environment in their world. That this area is mostly shallow water, largely ice free year round, and apparently has oil and gas makes it a target for exploitation. They don't need my permission, or yours, or that of the WWF and climate scientists. My realist/cynic side is fairly confident that the race to the bottom will continue. Humanity has been quite consistent in that respect.

Not sure who you're refering[sic] to ... Revenues trump the environment in their world.

"Who" is anyone who reads TOD and is still wondering how we can find and exploit more oil. "Their" world, in this particular case, happens to be yours and mine.

If one happens to notice that the Russians are killing the canary in the coal mine [the polar bear in the arctic], one could run hastily out of the mine [run for the hills as sea level rises].

As RetSel points out below, we are in a race against time (at best). It would help if TOD folks were to spend less time fretting about how to get more oil out of the ground and instead concentrate on how to slam on the brakes.... Russians included. If Russia burns this summer a lot more than last time, maybe they will pay more attention.

Solar - "Who is anyone who reads TOD and is still wondering how we can find and exploit more oil." I gather that also includes you since you utilize oil every day in your life and require that we keep producing it. At least enough to sustain you.

I have enjoyed your rational explanations of oil related issues over the years. You seem to have a pretty open mind.

Most of the open minded people I know acknowledge the imminent threat of planet warming and most of us continue to live our lives as if the threat did not exist.

If the threat is real we really have to change nearly everything about how we live. Isn't it about time to start acting on what we know?

Rockman, if you want to get personal about this, which is risky on this forum, please consider that I have installed enough solar (using oil of course) to reduce oil / gas consumption by the equivalent of 15 barrels a day. Already past EROI recapture too. My use now of oil is strictly to increase my contribution against oil usage by orders of magnitude, leveraging my knowledge of peak oil, climate change and solar. I can elaborate if you want to discuss this off-line.

How are you coming on kicking the habit? (I presume you don't consider yourself an exception to your own query.)

Solar - sorry if you took it personal. That wasn't my intent so I apologize for being sloppy.

And I applaud you efforts. And yes: I probably own one of the more energy efficient homes on TOD. And, though being in the oil patch in Texas, I don’t drive a big fuel guzzling p/u truck…even as much as would really really like to. LOL. No solar yet because I don’t use enough expensive electricity to justify it. But I’m prepared. And again, it may sound personal but your original comment about the chatter on TOD was a tad personal IMHO. Perhaps I misread you but you appeared to be saying there was something wrong with looking at ways to produce fossil fuels. Which led to my question: can you live the life you have now with no ff’s? If not then you require someone to go out there and find and produce it. You may oppose certain ways of doing so which is fair. But, again, do you need someone to be producing ff’s tomorrow to sustain yourself? If the answer is yes then you support someone producing ff’s in some manner somewhere. Then it sounds a tad disingenuous to be critical of folks doing what you require to be done. You may require a good bit less ff than the average American but you still require some. At least enough to run the TOD server. LOL.

We don't need to find more oil to sustain ourselves. We need to find ways to reduce our consumption, and rather fast. Natural decline of existing fields will provide the motivation to limit our consumption of oil to truly important products like plastics (ie medical devices). Why should we burn this amazing material?

Rockman, no worries. I may have been a bit sloppy too.

As Realist points out, we have to change and soon. I'm no innocent bystander. I use oil, and I live in the USA. If I were the best prepared of all, I would simply run a greater risk of being invaded when the chips are down. So what we all need is common ground, safety in numbers, to use a cliche. Like Arlo Guthrie said, if there are just threeeee people doing it (breaking the oil habit), they'll think it's a movement! You say you are prepared. Does that mean you are surrounded by the prepared? I suspect not. If I'm right, I would argue that you are even less prepared than you think you are. We ALL have to slam on the brakes. "Energy conservation" does not convey the urgency, I'm sorry to say.

I come to TOD looking for support for kicking the oil habit, not just on an individual basis, but EN MASSE. So I am dismayed when someone like Heading Out, a thought leader on this forum, makes what seems to me a cavalier statement about polar bears. That sounds to me like, "Ignore the canary and keep digging."

I would like to think it is obvious to folks at TOD that we are entering the non-linear hockey stick stage of climate change. Maybe it isn't obvious. If so, I'm not doing my job. Methane hydrate releases have gone hockey stick in the Arctic since 2010. If you're not panicking, please tell me your secret.

Solar – I don’t know what HO real feelings are about polar bears. I’ve been up close (5’ nose to nose) to wild PB’s in Churchill. Magnificent so I hope my 13 yo daughter gets to see them some day. But I might call my feelings more pragmatic then cavalier. But my bigger concern than my daughter seeing a PB in the wild is what her life will be like for the next 50+ years. If you haven’t seen enough of my post: I’m probably one the most pessimistic TODster when it comes to expecting the public to act rationally to our future problems.

Realist might be right that we don’t need more oil to sustain us while we transition. But that doesn’t matter IMHO: we aren’t going to use those resources to transition. Consider what has gone on in the Middle East for the last 20+ years. Do you see anything there that indicates we’ve accepted the need to transition? We just witnessed one of the greatest ecological disasters mankind has ever experienced in the GOM. Has that kick started our transition?

Usually when I hear about ME oil exports I’ll often have a mental image of shiny aluminum coffins unloading in Dover and dead children in the sand. I’ve spent 38 years trying to develop ff’s in this country during which I’ve seen my share of mangle bodies and a few dead ones in that process. I grew up in S. La and have a fair bit of Cajun blood in me. Wanna guess how I feel about BP’s ridiculously unsafe procedure that led to the Macondo blow out? A procedure that I’ve never allowed once on any of my wells for almost 4 decades. Wanna guess my level of disgust with all the ways our society has wasted energy? I resent the hell out of it. LOL. Which might sound a tad odd given I’ve done all I could to help feed that monster. But imagine if we were just producing a much smalled amount of domestic energy as we’re today. What would you think the US would be doing to the environment as well as all those other folks in the world who desperately need us to “export democracy” to them? Perhaps the Venezuelan people will be the recipients of that gift.

That’s a vision I have of the future. It’s not solar panels or wind turbines no matter how important such developments could be to the future.
Well, that’s a lot more personal then I like to get on TOD. Not speaking for HO or anyone else on TOD but I may have what might seem to be a cavalier attitude at times. But it’s really more of a sense acceptance of how screwed up we have been, are today and will be even worse in the future.

you may want to read some John Michael Greer - he helps with the understating on why the EN MASSE ani't gonna happen

There's plenty of disscussion about alternatives and options here; "Discussions About Energy And Our Future". The site isn't geared towards "How To Promote More Fossil Fuel Extraction" or "How To Sabotage A Drilling Rig", and describing a process or exploration campaign certainly isn't advocating for those things. Plenty of that going on elsewhere. Good data doesn't choose sides.

Many of us want to be as informed as possible out the oil business, without being fanboys of it -or investors in it. More like "know thine enemy".

Edit to my post above: The Kara Sea does remain frozen much of the year, unlike the adjacent Barents Sea. The Kara only gets a small part of the warm currents that keep the Barents warmer. My bad...

The Kara Sea remained frozen for much less of last year than it used to. Its the area of the Arctic that is most sensitive to the earlier melt and later freeze thats happening now.

I recall reading about the conclusions from some studies which found that when the Earth was 21F warmer, that the concentration of carbon dioxide was 450 ppm. We are at 393 ppm today and carbon dioxide levels are increasing by about 2 - 3 ppm each and every year. That means that we could be reach 450 ppm of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere in less than 25 years. Of course, we won't reach 21F increase in temperature in the same timeframe, as there is a sigificant lag in climate change. But what is of critical importance is that the rate of climate change has begun to accelerate which warns us that climate change will not be linear event but be an exponential one. Thus, to counter the rate of change, we will have to more and more drastically cut greenhouse gas emissions to offset the increasing rate of change. This is because of the secondary factors which we can now observe, such as the increasing releases of carbon locked up in the tundra regions of the Northern hemisphere, are now increasing at a rapid pace.

Of course, at some point, the secondary factors will overtake the human made emissions and no matter what we do, we will not be able to slow down the runaway warming of the climate. The nuclear dumpsites around the potential drilling sites in Russia raises an other analogy, which is that climate change could reach a critcal "mass" stage like nuclear reactions which cannot be turned off. We have no certainty when that turning point is. We do know that our children and our children's children will blame our generation for not taking action.

I think that many peak oilers always thought that peak oil would occur and essentially solve the problem of climate change, but between the tar sands in Canada and Venezuela and the shale oil (tight oil) in Canada (estimated to be about a trillion bbls), peak oil is likely too far off to prevent this runaway climate change, especially since we are likely so close to the no-return point where the earth will experience a runaway change in climate.

Some estimate that we need to cut carbon emissions by 80% by 2050 to prevent runaway climate change, of course they have no certainty that such a change in carbon emissions will be enough, but it is a doable goal that is also a stretch. But if we are serious about meeting that goal of 80% reduction by 2050, we have to start working very diligently on that goal now if we have any hope of reaching it.

Written by Retsel:
I think that many peak oilers always thought that peak oil would occur and essentially solve the problem of climate change....

Years ago when I was new to this forum and put forward that idea, I got skeptical responses about peak oil causing a rush to extract low quality fuel that would release more fossil carbon. They were referring to people going after tar sands, possibly coal-to-liquids, China's increasing use of coal to make electricity and struggling with declining ERoEI to desperately maintain business-as-usual. Others declared that the effects of climate change would become dire before the effects of peak oil, of which I am still doubtful. The ideas were being expressed, but the reader needed to figure out which ones to select.

I think that many peak oilers always thought that peak oil would occur and essentially solve the problem of climate change....

I have been on the Oil Drum for over seven years and I don't recall any of the peak oilers there ever making such a claim. Most thought that it would cause a switch to coal and coal to liquids which would make the problem much worse.

I guess I didn't read BlueTwilight's post where he posed that as a possible solution.

Ron P.

Yeah, Ron, I'm in agreement with greenish who accurately describes humans as pyromaniac apes, or somesuch [goes to put another log in woodstove]. This article, and many others, are testimony to the lengths that humans will go to to find fuel for their fires, and as things progress, it seems we'll just burn things faster before it all runs out. The only thing that will stop this will be the population crash as things do run out. Our innate drive to survive and thrive will ensure that. Our species is not programmed for self-limitation.

I think it could have been Profs Rutledge and Aleklett who called into question the IPCC scenarios for future fossil fuel burning - and I think both forecast a surprisingly low final total for coal. IPCC scenarios were essentially provided for them by economists and those institutions who forecast 'growth' and 'demand' and an ever-expanding globalization. Whatever: CO2 levels are still accelerating and plenty of climate change is already baked in the cake and the layered ocean becomes more acidic. The CO2 level is probably already much too high to avoid very serious future results.

I have been engaged in this "Peak Oil Watch" for well over a decade now. One of the most frustrating things in this task is the different production figures one gets from different sources. If you do a search on "OPEC oil production" you will almost always get different figures from different sources. One will say the previous months OPEC production was up while another will say it was down.

Even so-called "official sources" give different figures. For instance you quote the OPEC MOMR:

Preliminary figures indicate that Russian oil production stood at 10.46 mb/d in January, steady from the previous month.

While another source, the Kiev Post says:

Russian oil output down 1.7%, gas up 2.9% in Jan - Rosstat

And that was down 1.7% from January 2012. Their 2012 peak was in November which was about 150,000 barrels per day above their January levels according to the EIA. That would put their January 2013 production down over 300 kb/d below their November numbers. And these figures came from their Federal State Statistics Service. That sounds pretty official to me.

Moscow. Feb 15 - Russia produced 43 million tonnes of oil and gas condensate in January 2013, 1.7% less than in the same month of last year, the Federal State Statistics Service (Rosstat) said.

Yet another Russian stat page always comes up with different figures. That site is CDU TEK.

Ron P.

For OPEC there is this new solution called

EIA is complete rubbish, they are guessing the data nowadays, the DoE funding cut has not helped and the quality of data has been severely impacted.

Russian data is quite good; it can be delivered real-time and a lot of traders use it those days. CDU-TEK is the official source, careful not to confuse Liquids & Crude when looking at the data.

The number of journalists (and quite a few analysts) opening their mouth about oil data without any inkling at what they are talking about is so large that unfortunately I no longer read any, focusing exclusively on understanding deeply the very few original sources and their computation methods.

Polar bears ought to suggest more than "cute." Look at the map. Look at the convoluted terrain. This is 74 degrees North
Latitude. It's dark half the year. Then go try to do some simple physical activity outside, say change the oil in your car in an American winter.

Every energy expert or politician who talks about Arctic oil being the next great frontier, ought to be lashed to the mast and
sentenced to a 6 month stint working on a drilling rig north of the Arctic circle. It's really amazing we get any energy from
up there, and yes we do, and perhaps more in the future, but god sakes it's not gonna be easy.

Totally agree. I worked for 2 years for SLB in Western Siberia, about 1,000 miles south of the Kara field. Winters were dark with temperatures down to -50 C.
It will take a lot of planning to get started.

It will take a lot of planning to get started.

It will take a lot more planning to stop this highway robbery. Isn't that the idea?

chances are it will stop itself. In order to produce that kind of (expensive) oil in significant quantities you're going to need oil prices which are high for a long time. As a zig-zag price scenario is more likely I would not be surprised if those kinds of extreme oil extraction excersizes are going to more sporadic than we currently anticipate.


Rosneft and ExxonMobil have gone beyond the Kara Sea in their exploration plans. This announcement went underneath the radar just a few weeks ago:
Here's a map of the new exploration blocks that Rosneft was awarded, which will be shared with ExxonMobil:
Still, drilling not expected to start for a few years. With any production coming out of this still a very long-term proposition.

High-volume slick-water hydraulic fracturing?

It is true that a new form of hydraulic fracturing—high-volume slick-water hydraulic fracturing—has made available sources of oil not previously accessible. But is it also true that the industry’s hyperbole doesn’t square with the evidence.

Rockman, this is the first time I've come across that phrase. It is in a very good article in CSM. Have you heard that before? Is it actually new?

Thanks in advance

Kingfish - Yes…new. If you consider something that’s been done for about 15 years new. I've got some "new" underwear about that old. LOL.

Though the first use of hydraulic fracturing was in 1947, it was the introduction of ”slickwater” fracturing by Mitchell Energy in North Texas – Barnett Shale in the late 1990s that started the modern shale gas boom in Texas. The term slickwater refers to friction reducing chemicals, typically less than 1% of total volume, added to the water and sand slurry. This allows up to 75% more fracking fluid to be pumped down the well bore, significantly increasing product yield.

Slickwater fracturing was first used in the Barnett shale. Mitchell Energy introduced the very first slickwater frac that utilized 800,000 gal. of water and 200,000 lbs. of sand as proppant. It is typically used in highly-pressurized, deeper shales, while fracturing fluids using nitrogen foam are more common in more shallow shales and those that have lower reservoir pressure.

BTW Mitchell and I seperately did the first 1/2 million pound frac of a shale 34 years ago in 1979.

1/2 M# = 227 tons @ say 2 tons/cubic meter roughly 100 cubic meters of cracks filled with proppant. Say each crack 2 mm wide x 100 mm broad, that's 50 km of cracks. More importantly, that's 50,000 x 0.1 x 2 faces = 10,000 sq meters of rock face for gas to come out of.

How'm I doing?

Is there any work being done on finding environment friendly additives when fracking.

Comment - No. Frac fluids are highly toxic. always have been...always will be. But very toxic chemicals are used throughout society from in manufacturing and probably under your own sink. So if they can't be eliminated every effort should be made to keep their use as safe as possible.


I have read advertisements for companies that use propane as a fracking fluid. How does that compare with "slickwater" fluids?

W – That would certainly eliminate the frac fluid disposal situation. I haven’t seen enough actual field trial results to know if it has a future or not. Many ideas look good on paper but fail to deliver in the physical world


One would think it would be in the best interests of the fracking industry to compile their data and develop best practices to establish the most efficient and environmentally friendly methods per well. Avoiding one more job for big government.

To toss in another thought. It amazes me after decades of fracking there are not regulations and best practices for flaring off gas from wells. Some companies do it and others don't?

In your opinion. Why is that.

C – Considering the industry has been refining frac’ng for more than half a century it’s probably as good as it’s going to get. There isn’t much environmentally unfriendly about frac’ng if the nasties are properly disposed. Which is exactly where the govts of some states have failed their citizens by either initially allowing poor disposal methods or not monitoring the process. Did you know that it was legal for municipal water treatment facilities in NY and PA to take in frac fluids and then dump then untreated into the rivers. Both state made it illegal a couple of years ago. But you have to wonder why they had to pass a law. Compare that to La. where I can't pump rain water of my drill site. Yes...rain water.

Flaring: forget the shale gas flares. That volume is insignificant compared to the amount of NG flared around the world from conventional fields. Check out the night time satellite shots of offshore Nigeria. No company can flare NG in the US unless the state regulators allow it. So the question isn’t so much why operators might do it but why a state, such as N Dakota, allows it. Simple answer: to accelerate oil production by not having to wait to build out the NG transportation infrastructure.

But why does a company fare NG when it's allowed: the NG is worth less than the investment to pipeline it out. IOW why spend $3 million on a pipeline to sell $2 million of NG?

Nice picture of gas being flared in a National Geographic article on the North Dakota oil boom. It immediately made me think of ways to use it, instead of flare it. Certainly, AirGas, Praxair, Stirling Cryogenics, Air Liquide, any of the major and minor manufacturers of liquid gases created by cryogenic distillation, could "size" a process plant to run off flare gas, and generate a product that could be shipped by truck to fertilizer manufacturers. A gas turbine run off flare gas might achieve really good efficiencies, if a bit of the liquid oxygen in the end product could be bled into the incoming gas...hell, you could eliminate the compressor section of the gas turbine!!

The problem is they can not do anything profitable with the natural gas due to its current low price.

The low price (in fact, flare gas is essentially free) is what my idea attempts to take advantage of: Run a big ol' natural gas ICE or modest gas turbine, to power a compressor to compress air down to liquid air, and take away the products (liquid nitrogen, liquid oxygen, liquid argon) to places (via truck) where it can be sold (e.g. fertilizer factories in the Midwest).

As I said, some of the liquid air could be used in the turbine to eliminate the front-end compressor on the turbine, making it a very efficient converter of combustion to shaft power output.

Holy smokes . . . how can they drill in those waters? Aren't they covered with ice?

They need an underwater drilling platform like the fictional one from the James Cameron movie "The Abyss".

For detailed info on the state of the Actic Sea Ice, you would do well to visit the blog of the same name where the current story is about the massive and presumabably much earlier fracturing of the very thin ice that resulted from last year's record-breaking melt-back which is penetrating into the much thicker multi-year-ice. Some of the visuals are very stunning when the scale is understood. The seas closest to Russia are also the shallowest, warmest and least ice containing in the Arctic.

I follow the Arctic Sea Ice extent rather closely-its only about 400 miles away to my north and west, our weather feels it. The last few years the Bering Sea has had record freeze up extent. This year not so.

I've wondered if the very cold sea surface temperatures of the North Pacific the last few years were related to the massive summer melts that really took off in 2007. Last year's melt was even greater area wise but I'm not sure about volume wise, just not as much old thicker ice left around the Beaufort and Chukchi to work its way to edge and disappear.

This year the Bering Sea ice pack is right at about normal, I've wondered if the smaller percentage of old thicker ice melting on this side of the Arctic lately can't keep the North Pacific as cool as it got following the gigantic old thick ice melt of 2007. This is the first February/March since 2008 that interior Alaska hasn't been stuck in a mostly subzero F deep freeze. Not sure how closely it is all related.