Gazprom Neft, Russia’s fourth largest oil producer, has big plans for its Arctic oil operations, and it seems that neither sanctions nor production cuts can force it to quit its presence there. In fact, the oil division of Gazprom will try to turn itself into what its head of strategy and innovations called “a benchmark,” but not in terms of production. Gazprom Neft wants to become a benchmark in areas such as safety and efficiency, and most notably technology.
Arctic drilling was one of the top targets of U.S. sanctions that banned U.S. oil companies—and their European peers—from sharing technological know-how with Russian producers. This may have slowed down the progress of Gazprom Neft and others in the Arctic, but it did not put an end to it. Not that it could: Russia’s energy industry has been working on Arctic exploration for much longer than the four years since the annexation of Crimea, which became the grounds for the sanctions.
Gazprom Neft launched its first Arctic field, Prirazlomnoye, at the end of 2013, and first oil, and the new blend, ARCO, from Arctic Oil, reached markets the following year. Since then, more than 10 million barrels have been shipped from the field. Recoverable reserves at Prirazlomnoye are estimated at 540 million barrels of crude, and the peak of production is set to be reached in 2020, at 110,000 barrels per day.
The Arctic as a whole is top priority for Gazprom Neft: in 2016, two new projects got the go-ahead there. Messoyakha, which is the northernmost onshore oil field in Russia to date, is estimated to hold 470 million tons of oil and condensate. Novoportovskoye, or Novy Port, field holds an estimated 250 million tons of oil and condensate.
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