Novatek Eyes Icebreaker Partnership
Russian gas independent Novatek said it signed an agreement of intent September 12 to form a joint venture with state nuclear fuel and atomic power plant developer Rosatom.
It said both intend to establish a long-term partnership to "jointly develop, finance and implement a project to create a LNG-fueled icebreaker fleet" to support Novatek's Arctic projects in frozen areas along the Northern Sea Route, as well as building port fleet and supply vessels. The agreement was signed at Russia's Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok by both CEOs.
Novatek CEO Leonid Mikhelson said his firm had “successful experience” of Rosatom providing ice-breaker support for Novatek LNG carriers working for the Yamal LNG project: "This agreement will facilitate the further development of an icebreaking fleet and support the growth of cargo traffic along the Northern Sea Route that is very important for our company and for Russia's economy as a whole."
Currently, Yamal LNG cannot export eastwards through the Arctic to far east markets such as China during winter months until about April, because of thick ice. Development of a cost-effective ice-breaking fleet might thus extend the season during which Yamal could supply the higher-priced Asian LNG market, and play to the strengths of Russia's existing technological expertise. No details of costs were given.
Rosatom currently owns and operates four nuclear-powered icebreakers, Yamal, Taymyr and Vaygach (named after peninsulas or islands in the Russian Arctic) and 50 Let Pobedy (which translates as 50 Years of Victory). Three more are being built: Arktika due to be commissioned in mid-2019; Sibir (or 'Siberia') in November 2020; and Ural in November 2021.
(The banner photo shows the hull of Sibir being floated out near St Petersburg on September 22 2017, credit: Rosatom)