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07:46 GMT +3 hours21 December 2014
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Gazprom says it hopes for major Arctic hydrocarbon discoveries

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A Gazprom spokesman said Wednesday that the Russian energy giant expected "major new discoveries" of oil and gas reserves under the Arctic Ocean, and had large-scale prospecting plans for the region.
MOSCOW, August 1 (RIA Novosti) - A Gazprom spokesman said Wednesday that the Russian energy giant expected "major new discoveries" of oil and gas reserves under the Arctic Ocean, and had large-scale prospecting plans for the region.

Press secretary Sergei Kupriyanov discussed the company's plans in a radio interview, the day before a Russian exploration vessel is to send mini-submarines on the first-ever dive below the North Pole, a symbolic move as Russia attempts to claim a vast section of the Arctic.

The United States' geological survey data suggest the Arctic seabed contains up to 25% of the world's oil and natural gas reserves, and other mineral riches, made accessible by the retreating of the polar ice due to global warming.

Sergei Kupriyanov told Ekho Moskvy: "We have approved a program of work on the Arctic shelf, which includes a great deal of prospecting."

The spokesman stressed the potential vastness of the Arctic shelf's reserves - the Shtokman field alone in the Barents Sea holds an estimated 3.8 trillion cubic meters of natural gas, he said.

"This is more than we have supplied to Europe over the past 30 years. Less than 5% of the Arctic shelf has been explored, and we are sure that major new discoveries will follow," the official said.

Two Russian Mir mini-submarines are to dive 4,200 meters (14,000 feet) below the Pole in what is seen as a publicity stunt designed to prop up Russia's claim to 1.2 million sq kilometers (about 460,000 sq miles) of the territory - the underwater Lomonosov and Mendeleyev Ridges - which Russia says is the continuation of its continental shelf and which is believed to contain mineral resources. The claim has been challenged by other countries.

The UN has yet to rule on the claim. The area around the Pole is currently an international territory administered by the International Seabed Authority.

Researchers in the Mir 1 and Mir 2 mini-subs will take soil and fauna samples on the ocean bed, leave a Russian flag and a message to future generations in a capsule, and establish a video link with the International Space Station.