Challenging Russia – Offshore Technology

The following is an excerpt from an article commissioned by SPG Media for the website, and published there yesterday in a slightly different form.

Economic background

Russia’s economy is heavily dependent on oil and gas exports, and with Europe becoming more and more reliant on imported fuels, the prospects for Russian industry should be good. The EU currently imports over 30% of its natural gas from Russia, and, according to EurActiv, this figure is expected to rise to 60% by 2030.

Data published recently by the US Department of Energy (DoE) show that Russia’s recent economic growth has been driven primarily by energy exports, with oil and gas accounting for around 20% of national income in 2005.

Offshore reserves

In his 1999 study of the offshore oil and gas industry, ecologist Stanislav Patin gives details of hydrocarbon reserves in around 90% of offshore areas within Russian jurisdiction, covering some five to six million square kilometres in total. Recoverable reserves were in the early 1990s estimated to be up to 100 billion tonnes of oil equivalent (btoe), with 80% in the form of natural gas.

In the western Arctic, there are two massive hydrocarbon-bearing basins on the shelves of the Barents and Kara Seas in western Siberia, holding 50–60 btoe. In the Far East and eastern Siberia there are 1.5 million square kilometres of interest, concentrated mostly in the Sea of Okhotsk near Sakhalin, and the Bering, Chukchi and East-Siberian Seas.

Owing to disputes with Japan and a number of oil spills, Sakhalin is the most widely reported Russian offshore development. The Sakhalin shelf is estimated to contain around 6.5 btoe, or nearly twice the remaining reserves in the North Sea.

Smaller-scale developments exist in the Caspian and Baltic Seas, and in the Sea of Asov. The shallow shelf of the Caspian Sea is the most productive of these, and has recoverable reserves estimated at 2–3 btoe, with oil itself accounting for 70%.

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