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Impacts of an Ice-Free Northeast Passage on LNG Markets and Geopolitics

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Abstract: We examine the relevance of an ice-free Northeast Passage as a shipping route, especially for LNG-supplying and -consuming countries. Four aspects are considered in-depth: (1) Developments in natural gas production in the Russian Arctic; (2) Trends and strategies of major Asian LNG-consuming countries; (3) Geopolitical significance of the Northeast Passage; (4) Geographical and climatic particularities of the Arctic. The analysis also comprises an assessment of the competitiveness of Russian LNG exports along the Northeast Passage, a discussion of the impacts on LNG transport routes and markets, and an evaluation of the geopolitical implications of this new shipping route. We find that an ice-free NEP is relevant for maritime bulk and particularly LNG shipping, and thus of great geopolitical importance and strategic interest for countries such as Russia, the US, China, Japan, and South Korea.

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