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The Cristophe de Margerie, an LNG carrier commissioned by French Total, has become the first tanker to pass the Arctic unaided and is now en route to its destination in Asia, the South Korean port of Boryeong, Total said as quoted by AFP.
The route via the Bering Strait in the Arctic is 15 days—or 50 percent—shorter than the traditional route for tankers through the Suez Canal, but until recently it was impossible to make the journey without aid from other vessels.
Now, climate change has melted some of the ice, making the shorter journey possible without the need for icebreaker escort.
Christophe de Margerie, named after the previous chief executive of the French company, who died in a plane crash three years ago, is the first of a fleet of 15 LNG carriers that will carry gas extracted in Yamal, in northwestern Siberia, to Asia via the Northern route. The vessel was inaugurated on July 27, Total said, at the Snohvit LNG terminal in Norway, where the French company is a minority shareholder.
In the inauguration press release, Total said that the design of the vessel also had a lot to do with its ability to go via the Northern route without help from icebreakers.
The carriers were specifically developed to carry gas from the Yamal LNG project, which processes natural gas from the South Tambey field. As part of the project, Total and its partners are also building the Sabetta port, which the French company said will eventually see shipments of 16.5 million tons of LNG annually.
The Yamal LNG project is majority owned by Russia’s biggest independent gas producer Novatek, with 50.1 percent, Total, with 20 percent, China’s CNPC, also with 20 percent, and Another Chinese entity, Silk Road Fund, with 9.9 percent.
The South Tambey field has proven and probable reserves estimated at 926 billion cu m.
By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com
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Irina is a writer for Oilprice.com with over a decade of experience writing on the oil and gas industry.