By Paul Goble
Under contract from Rosatom, Dutch and Belgian dredging ships have removed more than 32 million tons of earth and rock at the bottom of the Ob estuary, deepening and widening the channel so that it will be able to handle larger LNG ships docking at Sabetta and Utrenneye in the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous District.
They will continue their work next summer, ultimately removing more than 100 million cubic meters of frozen seabed. (thebarentsobserver.com/ru/arkticheskiy-spg/2020/12/masshtabnye-dnouglubitelnye-raboty-otkryvayut-melkovodnyy-arkticheskiy, thebarentsobserver.com/ru/ekologiya-promyshlennost-i-energiya/2020/06/dlya-grandioznogo-gazovogo-proekta-so-dna-obskoy-guby and rosatom.ru/journalist/news/v-obskoy-gube-postavlen-natsionalnyy-rekord-po-obemu-dnouglubitelnykh-rabot-v-ramkakh-odnogo-proekta/).
Once the dredging is completed, Moscow plans to have its icebreakers keep the channel open year around, with as many as nine LNG ships arriving and departing each day, dramatically increasing Russia’s capacity to export liquefied natural gas and reducing its dependence on gas pipelines, many of which are now at risk of rupture because of melting permafrost.
Russian and foreign environmentalists fear that this project and the continuing use of the Ob estuary will destroy unique wildlife there (thebarentsobserver.com/ru/arkticheskiy-spg/2020/09/razvitie-neftedobychi-mozhet-privesti-k-gibeli-vsego-zhivogo-v-krupnom).