The Siberian Shelf is the largest continental shelf in the world ,
and includes the Kara Sea and the East Siberian Arctic Shelf (ESAS).
Shakhova et al  reckon that 50 Gt of methane could be released "at
any time" from the ESAS. They believe that the methane is held back by
permafrost which is thawing as a result of Arctic warming, and a sudden
release of such a quantity could be triggered by an earthquake - the
region being prone to them.
If the 50 Gt were released within a year, it would multiply the
concentration of methane in the atmosphere by about 11 times (referred
to as "methane X 11"), the total weight of methane currently in the
atmosphere being ~5 Gt. Current direct radiative forcing of methane is
estimated at 0.48 W/m-2 (Watts per square metre), compared to 1.6 W/m-2
from CO2. So this would be increased to 5.3 W/m-2. To this would be
added indirect radiative forcing, as the methane reacts with other
compounds in the atmosphere. Isaksen et al  calculate that an
increase in concentration of less than half that amount ("methane X
5.2") would lead to an additional 400% of indirect forcing. So the
total forcing for "methane X 11" would be well over five times the
direct forcing, i.e. over 26 W/m-2. The resulting abrupt global warming
of many degrees would probably not be survivable by our civilisation.
If however the 50 Gt of methane were released over 30 years, it would
lead to at least 4 times methane concentration on average, i.e. "methane
X 4". This would give a direct forcing of at least 2 W/m-2, and total
forcing of at least 4 W/m-2. That would kibosh any chance of meeting
the 2 degrees global warming limit, let alone the much safer 1.5 degrees
limit now urged by UNFCCC chairperson, Ms Figueres .
Thus there is a need for emergency action to cool the Arctic as quickly
as possible and reduce the risk of such a methane excursion, whether
produced from the Arctic Shelf or permafrost on land. But there must
also be action to stop any drilling which could accidentally cause a
leak of natural gas (which is mostly methane) or oil (which could
prevent the formation of sea ice in winter).
These actions would be against the short term interests of the oil
giants, especially Exxon, now that they have a deal with Rosneft 
with proposals to drill in the Kara Sea, and are no doubt looking
forward to an ice-free Arctic.
Thus there is not only the need to overcome the political resistance to
SRM geoengineering to cool the Arctic (at least without years more of
research by which time it will be too late), but the commercial
resistance to prohibiting the drilling for oil and gas in the Arctic.
How can we overcome such resistance to geoengineering, often from such
well-meaning people as the ETC group and many environmentalists? And
how can we stop the drilling?
P.S. Over the past few years, the atmospheric methane level has risen
from 1750 ppb to 1850 ppb, which is 5.7%. If this rise was annual,
you'd get a doubling in about 13 years.
Exxon Mobil Corp and Rosneft signed an agreement to extract oil and gas
from the Russian Arctic, in the most significant U.S.-Russian corporate
deal since U.S. President Barack Obama began a push to improve ties.
The pact, which includes an option for Rosneft to invest in Gulf of
Mexico and Texan properties, ended any hope of Britain's BP reviving its
deal with state-owned Rosneft to develop the same Arctic territory. That
deal was blocked in May by the billionaire partners in another BP
The pact gives Exxon, the biggest U.S. oil company, access to
substantial reserves in Russia, the world's top oil producer. For
Rosneft, it's about bringing in one of the few companies capable of
drilling in the harsh, deep waters of the Arctic.
Russia has shown greater willingness in the past year to secure foreign
partners, even if some deals later fell apart. The Exxon announcement
comes only months after the demise of a Rosneft deal with Chevron Corp
for a $1 billion investment in an estimated $32 billion Black Sea project.
Analysts cited differences between Chevron and Rosneft over the choice
of contractor, the joint venture's domicile and the jurisdiction of
arbitration for any business disputes.
Yet Chevron, like Royal Dutch Shell Plc, was also considered a potential
partner for Rosneft's Arctic venture.
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin attended the Tuesday signing -- in
the Black Sea resort of Sochi -- by Exxon Chief Executive Rex Tillerson
and Russia's top energy official, Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin.
"New horizons are opening up. One of the world's leading companies,
Exxon Mobil, is starting to work on Russia's strategic shelf and
deepwater continental shelf," Putin said.
Exxon and Rosneft agreed to invest $3.2 billion to develop East
Prinovozemelsky Blocks 1, 2, and 3 in the Arctic Kara Sea and the Tuapse
licensing block in the Black Sea.
Rosneft will own 66.7 percent and Exxon the rest of the joint venture to
develop the blocks, which Exxon said were "among the most promising and
least explored offshore areas globally, with high potential for liquids
"The fact that someone with the stature of Exxon Mobil is willing to
give it a stab is very significant," said Amy Myers Jaffe, of the Baker
Institute at Houston's Rice University.
While Rosneft will tap Exxon's expertise to open up one of the last
unconquered drilling frontiers, it will also diversify further by
getting a piece of some of Exxon's U.S. developments.
"To get into Russia offshore you give up some of your domestic offshore.
I think it's a fair trade," said Brian Youngberg, senior energy analyst
at brokerage Edward Jones in St. Louis, who has a "hold" rating on Exxon
It marks a big move for Exxon after it spent a year swallowing XTO -- a
much-criticized purchase that shifted its profile toward the depressed
U.S. natural gas market. "Now Exxon Mobil is starting to look elsewhere
for deals," Youngberg said.
Analysts also said the Rosneft-Exxon agreement indicates that the reset
in relations Obama sought was working to reduce the political risk for
U.S. businesses operating in Russia.
"Three years ago, American companies were being excluded. Here, an
American company is at the center of a flagship announcement. This deal
demonstrates that reset has had a positive effect on U.S.-Russia energy
relations," said Cliff Kupchan, director of Eurasian Practice at Eurasia
In explaining the deal's significance, Myers Jaffe pointed to previous
failed efforts in the past decade to foster joint energy interests.
"There was a lot of disappointment on both sides," she said. "The U.S.
industry just gave up on Russia."
PLAN B FOR ROSNEFT
Rosneft said the Kara Sea blocks contain an estimated 36 billion barrels
of recoverable oil resources. Total resources are estimated at 110
billion barrels of oil equivalent -- more than four times Exxon's proven
The Black Sea block is estimated to hold 9 billion barrels of oil
reserves. First drilling is planned to start in 2015, with Exxon
shouldering most of the costs.
"The Russians very quickly had a Plan B, and Plan B was Exxon," said
Fadel Gheit, energy analyst at Oppenheimer & Co, referring to the quick
switch to Exxon from BP.
The deal marks a turnaround in Russia for Exxon, which was widely
thought to be on the verge of taking over Yukos, then Russia's largest
oil company, before Yukos's boss, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, was arrested in
Khodorkovsky was subsequently jailed for fraud and tax evasion and
Yukos's prime assets were bought at bankruptcy auctions by Rosneft, now
Russia's industry leader and with enough reserves to cover 27 years of
Uncertainty persists over whether Putin or President Dmitry Medvedev
will seek the presidency next March. Putin can now show off the deal as
a success if he decides to run.
The transaction also marks a comeback for Sechin, who was ousted as
Rosneft chairman earlier this year in a purge of state company boards
ordered by Medvedev. Sechin estimated total investment in the project at
$200 billion-$300 billion.
In anticipation of all the money flowing there, oilfield services
companies including Schlumberger Ltd, Baker Hughes Inc and Weatherford
International Ltd WFT.N> have been picking up assets in Russia.
Environmental concerns are unlikely to create barriers to oil extraction
in Russia's remote Arctic regions, if moves this year by the country's
Natural Resources Ministry to shift nature reserve boundaries are any guide.
Rosneft will be offered an equity interest in Exxon exploration projects
in North America, including deepwater Gulf of Mexico and fields in
Texas, as well as in other countries.
The deal thus fulfills a demand for reciprocity often made by Putin,
helping Rosneft, which already works with Exxon offshore Russia's
Sakhalin island, toward its long-term goal of being a global energy major.
It was not clear whether any such investments by Rosneft would need
approval from the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States.
An Exxon spokesman declined to comment.
There is no exchange of equity in the agreement, while the BP deal
called for a $16 billion share swap in which BP would have exchanged a 5
percent stake for 9.4 percent in Rosneft.
"Exxon is double or triple the size and market value of BP," said Gheit
at Oppenheimer. "So, obviously, this would be much more important for a
BP than it is for Exxon."
While Rosneft shares rose 1.4 percent in Moscow,
read more »