Sunday, June 19, 2011

Fossil Fuel Production in the Arctic Ocean

Have you ever seen Ice Road Truckers on the History Channel?  Recently I watched season two and just started watching season three when I decided to write this post.  Season two begins in a small town above the Arctic circle named Inuvik.  From Inuvik, the ice road truckers move equipment and provisions to small towns on the Arctic coast (Tuktoyaktuk, for example) as well as natural gas exploration sites at Langley and Mallik.  See the map below courtesy of

If you watch the show, you will notice that both of the natural gas exploration sites at Langley and Mallik sit on the frozen Arctic Ocean.  The sites cannot be set up until the ice freezes over sufficiently, and the sites must be dismantled and moved before the ice supporting the site melts.  Most importantly, any materials, equipment, or provisions must travel over frozen water to get to the people that need them.

Every so often on the show, you will see the current temperature, and normally, this temperature sat around negative 20 Fahrenheit to negative 50 degrees Fahrenheit.  Trucks cannot be shut off when not in use at these temperatures simply because the engine will freeze.  This is energy being invested in hopes of energy being returned in the form of fossil fuels. 

You will also notice on the show that Hugh (one of the ice road truckers) spends quite a bit of the season driving the vacuum truck.  Often times, this vacuum truck contains greywater or blackwater which is essentially human waste.  The greywater and blackwater cannot simply be dumped on the ice to fall into the ocean because this pollutes the environment.  So the waste must be taken out by truck.  This can be considered yet more energy being invested in hopes of energy being returned in the form of fossil fuels.

The narrator of the show keeps talking about the vastness of reserves in the Arctic ocean, but what difference does it make?  We need energy to make the technological advances required to have permanent drilling sites in the Arctic as well as a way to move the energy around the world wherever it may be.  So if you are counting on energy from the Arctic to solve the world's energy woes...keep looking.

Thanks for reading.