24 November 2011, 14:50

Developing Arctic deposits: new demands

Developing Arctic deposits: new demands

The Arctic only accounts for about 6% of the world’s surface, but underneath the ice there may be up to 25% of the world’s hydrocarbon reserves.

The Arctic only accounts for about 6% of the world’s surface, but underneath the ice there may be up to 25% of the world’s hydrocarbon reserves.

Recently a joint survey was conducted by the US and Danish Geological Services and the conclusion they came to was that Arctic Sea Shelf may contain more than 100 billion tons of reference fuel, which is approximately 30% of the yet-to-be-discovered reserves of gas and 13% of oil and all at a depth of no more than 500 meters.

The anticipated reserves of oil and gas in the Arctic exceed the amounts that are known to exist in all of the world oceans and the Russian Arctic sector boasts more recoverable reserves than all other Russian seas put together.

With modern-day production rates, the discovered oil reserves will last humanity for 40 years, and the gas reserves for at least 70 years. The development of the immense hydrocarbon riches in the Arctic will guarantee long-term economic stability and energy autonomy for Russia for a long time to come.

Prospecting for hydrocarbons first got under way on the Western Arctic shelf in the 1970s and 1980s. Work could only go on for no more than 3 or 4 months in the coldest areas of the region as the temperatures are so cold as to make a longer working season impossible. First, offshore wells were drilled in shallow waters from refitted ships and later wells were drilled from foreign-made rigs. In 1980 the Sevastopol Cargo Ship was turned into the first Soviet floating drilling rig. Few wells were drilled to completion due to technological or financial problems.

In reality much more is yet to be discovered in terms of hydrocarbon deposits in the Arctic, since Russia only began serious prospecting for oil and gas in the region less than 10 years ago. Soviet researchers chose instead to develop the Caspian Sea shelf of Azerbaijan therefore Russia lacks a certain amount of knowledge of the Arctic’s hydrocarbon resources.

Some 94% of hydrocarbon deposits of Arctic deposits are localized in the western part of the Russian Arctic shelf. The eastern part of the Russian Arctic is mostly contains mostly unverified resources that are believed to be deposited on the continental slope or in deep-water areas of the region. Nevertheless the development of the Arctic is a strategic objective for Russia.

Does Russia need the Arctic oil and gas fields that will certainly prove expensive to develop? Or is it more sensible to increase the efficiency of oil recovery methods on land? Judging by the level of worldwide interest, generated by Arctic projects, the answer to the Arctic can only be an unambiguous ‘yes’.

Russia will have to dramatically improve its oil-producing technology to adapt it to the rigorous Arctic conditions and will do so. This will only be a matter of time, resources, required technologies and the creative professionals who the country needs to assist and support so that they can complete the important and complex tasks that lie before them.         

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