Arctic Gas Project Backs Political Strategy as Russia Turns East

Breaking the Ice

But first they must ensure LNG carriers can use the port at Sabetta all year round, even when it is ice-bound. This will involve using compressors to pump air under the ice, ensuring it breaks up more easily as ships push through.

The Arctic cold means that ships can travel from Yamal to the Pacific Ocean via the Bering strait only during five to seven months a year.

For the rest of the year, the LNG can reach the Pacific the long way round via the Suez canal but that more than doubles the distance to Shanghai, raising transport costs.

Novatek has also agreed to sell some of its LNG to Spain.

For now the port at Sabetta, built last year and this, is used for bringing in food, machinery, building material and firewood for saunas for the workmen.

Five thousand are employed at Sabetta, working for 45 days and then breaking for the same number and earning wages that range from 70,000 to 100,000 roubles a month - much more than the Russian average of 30,000 ($850).

"It's pretty comfortable when you are working like a dog for a month and a half and then having a rest for the same amount of time," said Viktor. "We will build it whatever." ($1 = 35.5008 Russian Roubles)

(editing by Elizabeth Piper and David Stamp)


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