To Keep Oil Flowing – Refrigerate the Arctic

August 17, 2020

Bloomberg Law:

Climate change is poised to thaw and undermine the soil beneath ConocoPhillips’ proposed Willow oil drilling project on Alaska’s North Slope, making its rigs and roads vulnerable to the same global warming the project will be aggravating. 

The project will be so vulnerable to climate change that ConocoPhillips plans to use chillers to keep the Arctic tundra frozen beneath its roads and oil drilling pads, according to the Bureau of Land Management’s environmental review of the plan published Thursday.

“Where necessary we use cooling devices (thermosyphons) that can chill the ground enough in the winter to help it remain frozen through the summer,” ConocoPhillips Alaska spokeswoman Natalie Lowman said. 

The Willow oil project, slated to be built over 30 years on Alaska’s North Slope, is vulnerable to a rapidly warming Arctic because it will depend on ice roads, ice bridges, and frozen permafrost that forms the foundation of its infrastructure. 

But the region will warm by an average of 4 degrees Fahrenheit over the life of the project, rapidly thawing the frozen Arctic tundra around the drilling rigs, and shortening the winter season during which ice roads and bridges will remain frozen, the land bureau said.

The land bureau’s analysis says the company plans to adapt its project to melting Arctic conditions by building thickly dug gravel roads and drilling pads to offset damage from thawing and shifting permafrost.

But the analysis warns the gravel roads themselves could contribute to further permafrost melting because road dust, where it settles, hastens the pace of soil thawing. And gravel used to fill in collapsed soil can transfer the radiant heat from above the ground and melt the ice beneath it.

Stilll, the land bureau is poised to approve the project in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska as part of the Trump administration’s fossil fuels-focused energy and deregulatory agenda.

Meanwhile, the Trump administration is trying to encourage even more arctic drilling…

New York Times:

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — The Department of the Interior on Monday approved an oil and gas leasing program within Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, the sprawling home to polar bears, caribou and other wildlife.

Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt signed the Record of Decision, which will determine where oil and gas leasing will take place in the refuge’s coastal plain, a 1.56-million acre swath of land on Alaska’s north shore with the Beaufort Sea.

“Congress directed us to hold lease sales in the ANWR Coastal Plain, and we have taken a significant step in meeting our obligations by determining where and under what conditions the oil and gas development program will occur,” Bernhardt said in a statement.

Congress approved the program in 2017, and the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management in December 2018 concluded drilling could be conducted within the coastal plain area without harming wildlife.

“Today’s announcement marks a milestone in Alaska’s forty-year journey to responsibly develop our state and our nation’s new energy frontier,” Gov. Mike Dunleavy said. 

The Republican governor called Monday’s decision “a definitive step in the right direction to developing this area’s energy potential,” which he estimated at 4.3 and 11.8 billion barrels of technically recoverable oil reserves.

Environmental groups immediately assailed opening the refuge and promised litigation.

“The Trump administration’s so-called review process for their shameless sell-off of the Arctic Refuge has been a sham from the start. We’ll see them in court,” said Lena Moffitt with the Sierra Club’s Our Wild America campaign.

“Our climate is in crisis, oil prices have cratered, and major banks are pulling out of Arctic financing right and left,” Adam Kolton, Executive Director at Alaska Wilderness League, said. “And yet the Trump administration continues its race to liquidate our nation’s last great wilderness, putting at risk the indigenous peoples and iconic wildlife that depend on it.”

One Response to “To Keep Oil Flowing – Refrigerate the Arctic”


  1. Here’s a radical idea – stop drilling there /s


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