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Race for riches of the Arctic continues

Contribution of the Siberian scientists allows Russia to succeed in the race for the development of vast wealth in the Arctic. According to preliminary estimates of experts, the resources in the Russian part of the Arctic shelf, to be jointly developed by “Rosneft” and British Petroleum oil companies, are estimated at five billion tons of oil and 10 trillion cubic meters of gas.

At the same time, they are planning to conduct geological studies. According to the specialists, most probably, the studies will take several decades. Moreover, constant and detailed monitoring of ice melting and the general situation in this part of the earth is vital. For this very reason they will start the construction of scientific-research station, equipped with modern equipment on the Samoylovsky Island in the delta of Lena River on the base of the M.P. Melnikov scientific stationary permafrost Institution of the Siberian branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences already in 2011.

Under the watchful eye of scientists

This decision was made after the visit of Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, to Samoylovsky Island in August 2010 and discussed the topicality of polar research with the members of international expedition. The procurement and construction of the station is delegated to the Special Construction Administration of Russia with the participation of the Republic of Sakha and the Siberian branch of RAS (SB RAS). The SB RAS’ chairman, academician Alexander Aseev, took the construction of this station under his personal control. With a special order a commission was created to monitor the progress of the project on construction of scientific-research station on the Samoylovsky Island.
The national resources of the Arctic become more available in connection to the global warming. A group of scientists of the Canadian Center for North Studies of the University of Laval believe that the summer ice could disappear by 2015. For this reason two years ago the Siberian and Far-Eastern branches of the Russian Academy of Sciences decided to allocate 50 million rubles from their budget for the scientific study of the Arctic development program. According to the SB RAS academician, Nikolay Dobretsov, it is also essential for the preparations of the scientific study of the geophysical operations, parametric wells, planning under the conditions of heavy ice, including ecological security. The academician says, “The results of such research might be needed very soon. And the most necessary thing is to conduct deep-water research of the bottom in the Arctic as soon as possible and gather indubitable evidence of the rights of our country to the water territories surrounding the shelf. This is a strategic issue, and both economic and military security of Russia depends on it”.

Two years ago, Siberian scientists established a work group, which included representatives of several research institutes of SB RAS. The processing of all the existing scientific information required such a wide range of specialists. On its basis, Siberian scientists have made their suggestions regarding the “Strategy of exploration of the Arctic” and presented them to the naval board of the Russian government.

The key to exploration is the Northern Seaway

The Laptev Sea region has been studied for decades. According to the famous Siberian scientist, RAS academician Aleksey Konatrovich, who became the owner of the prestigious international award “Global Energy”, comprehensive evaluation of mineral resources of the Arctic were already held during the soviet times. The scientists back then proved that there were great resources under the ice. Indeed, in the past century, the USSR took a confident step towards exploring the coldest part of the world: one of the gigantic projects of the soviet times was carried out – the Northern seaway. “Unfortunately, the director of the SB RAS Institute of Economics Valery Kuleshov complains, that all infrastructure was destroyed in the 90s and now we urgently need to restore it from scratch”.
If it is not done, the Siberian scientists assume that Russia is unlikely to keep the Arctic with its huge potential for natural resources. The experts say that global warming makes the hydrocarbon stores available, the modern technologies and methods rapidly increase the delivery of oil reservoirs and production of black gold in this latitudes become more economically efficient therefore very attractive. Especially for those countries that do not have their own hydrocarbons.

The study of age-old permafrost continued in the post soviet period as well. The SB RAS press-center says that the joint expedition “Lena” has been working for over ten years within the framework of the Russian-German project. The expedition includes climatologists, geologists, ecologists, permafrost experts and other specialists from the Siberian branch of the RAs, from the Saint Petersburg Arctic and Antarctic Institute and Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research (Bremerhaven-Potsdam).

According to the coordinator of the expedition, deputy director of P.M. Melnikov Institute of geocryology of SB RAS, doctor of geographic sciences Mikhail Grigoryev, the constant and diversified monitoring allowed to obtain unique results of the evolution of the natural environment of the Arctic zone of Eastern Siberia. Nowadays the interest of the international community towards this research is great. The evidence for this is the fact that the results have been published for over a thousand times in scientific and leading international publications.

As noted by Mikhail Grigoryev “the research of dynamics of frost in the shore-shelf zone of the seas in Eastern Siberia covers both shoreline and underwater frost”. According to the scientist, the shore and the shelf are composed of icy rocks. The global warming in the last decades has made its changes to the relief of the shore – under the influence of the sea waves and air masses it is clearly being destroyed. The icy shores of the Laptev and Eastern-Siberian seas annually decrease by 1.9 and 1.6 meters respectively every year. The shores, composed of rocks without ice, decrease by 0.3 meters. Thus, the Muostakh Island might completely disappear after a decade. According to the scientist, the area of the lost seashore land of the Eastern Siberian seas is 10.7 square kilometers per year.

Scientific research station

It is planned to continue the monitoring of the situation in the Arctic more widely and in detail with the help of the modern equipment in the new station. The press-center of the SB RAS says that they are considering conducting multi-disciplinary research. It is planned to create maximally comfortable conditions for the researches, as far as it is possible under such low northern temperatures. The station will be built from reliable thermal constructions with a reliable system of electricity and water supplies. The main building is consists of three sectors: the residential part is planned to include rooms for one or two inhabitants. In summer the station will host up to 25 people, in winter – about 10. The research sector includes laboratories of different profiles and a general purpose block. In the latter - dining room, sauna, utility rooms will be located. In addition, recreation area and conference room will be built in the central part. The workers of the stations will be able to watch television programs.

Communications will be available trough cosmic satellites.

It is assumed to equip the station with modern energy-efficient systems, in-particular the boilers with automated heating equipments, diesel generates with automated systems of management and utilization of heat of exhaust gas, systems of drinking water and fire fighting. Energy-efficient LED lamps will be used as lighting equipment.
The scientific station is located in the zone of “Ust-Lena” State Reserve. Meanwhile, northern ecosystem is very vulnerable. The nature here is easy to destroy, however harder to restore. That's why the station provides a complete system of solid waste management and wastewater treatment. The control of the entire engineering infrastructure will be carried out from the central control unit. It is planned to construct a hangar with warm boxes for special vehicles and helicopter platform near the main building.

Now the SB RAS members are participating in intensive pre-project work. The Siberian branch has developed the engineering specifications of the station and delivered them to the Special Construction Administration of Russia. According to one of the SB RAS head engineers, the candidate of Technical Sciences, Vitaly Mikheev, it is planned to hold engineering survey operations, finish the design, as well as place an order for preparation of the main building constructions and delivery of engineering equipment in the first half of 2011. During the summer navigation of this year all the materials, as well as the blocks and equipment for construction-assembly works will be delivered through the northern seaway Lena River. The station in expected to be constructed and put in commission by summer of 2012.

Oil reservoirs are getting closer

Such a rapid pace is very reasonable. The ices retreat more with every year. The doctor of Economic Sciences in the SB RAS Institute of Economics Valery Kryukov says, “Oil reservoirs in the north can now be explored with even the standard terrestrial technologies or technologies, used in the open water. Moreover, there are markets for mineral resources and hydrocarbons of industrialized countries there, in the Northern hemisphere. Routes through Kars and Pechersky seas guarantee regularity and safety of the deliveries”.
Another factor for intensity of political emotions around the borders of the Arctic shelf is the narrowing of the mineral raw material sphere of activity of the transcontinental oil corporations (TOC). “Only 30 years ago, the scientist continues, the TOC controlled 85 percent of the resource potential of the international oil and gas sector, now - only seven. Duplication of technologies narrowed the activities of the TOC. But they have accumulated huge financial resources and experience of introducing innovations. The TOC require new unexplored territories to expand their scope of activities. That is why, lobbying their own interests, they encourage their countries for political struggle in order to access the new areas of territories”.

That is why, the international economic crisis must not become the constraining factor in development of the Arctic. It should be quite the contrary. According to the Siberian scientists, this gives our country a chance to get ahead. Russia is now making all the efforts to preserve the once conquered Polar Regions. But will its activity be enough for this? This is just one of a number of issues that concern Siberian scientists today. Since the late 70s the USA has been exploring mineral resources in the Northern Ocean – Beaufort Sea, Norway in Barents Sea and Russia in Pechersky. In this regard, new drilling technologies in big depths, under icebergs, are rapidly developing.

Valery Kryukov notes, “A wide range of unique innovative solutions are practiced, which reduce expenses. This is the result of joint efforts of the government and companies. For Russia the decrease of expenses in oil production is an unusual phenomenon, unfortunately, they constantly grow. Since 2000 the expenses of the oil and gas sector in Russia have grown 2,5 times. Foreign companies pay great attention not only to effective management, but also to ecology and socio-economic development. For some reason, our country doesn’t even have special charts of record and control of developing the deposits, which is mandatory for foreign corporations. Here such charts are only kept in stages of geological research and licensing”.

The scientist emphasized that development of many regions in the country depends on the policy of the corporations. That is why it is necessary for the big companies, which are to work in the North, to carry social-corporate responsibility for the development of the region in long-term outlook. “Corporate social responsibility", says Valery Kryukov, a form of interaction between business and government in implementing large-scale projects in order to develop new territories”. The thing is that not everything can be written in the legislation, but it is possible to develop the main principles, which will guarantee it. The problem is that corporate responsibility in our country is still rudimentary.
According to the common opinion of the scientists, the development of the Arctic and the north of Siberia is the basis of stability not only of the mineral raw material sector, but also of the Russian economy as a whole. Their exploration requires special attention from the government. Aleksey Kontorovich says, “There’s no way the Arctic should be separated into pieces and given to different companies. This global project should be governmental, on the initial research stage, we should create a governmental structure on Arctic issues, which would concentrate all the information and where people could apply with inquiries and obtain permissions for research operations. And only when the main deposits are explored, they can be delivered to private companies or preserved as strategic raw material for the government”.

The scientists emphasized that such global and comprehensive projects have always become a kind of motivation for science, driving force for the development of innovative industry. For this reason, if foreign science and industry are chosen, it should provide an opportunity of innovative development of other countries, but Russia will still remain only a mere supplier of raw materials.


 

Viewed : 2572   Commented: 1

Author: Карновский Юрий Зиновьевич

Publication date : 05 February 2011 01:00

Source: The world and we

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