Russia’s dirtiest oil company to drill gas for Murmansk Region

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MURMANSK – Murmansk Regional Governor Marina Kovtun has announced that state oil monopoly  Rosneft – whose fast and loose practices have long concerned environmentalists – has been licensed to develop the “Murmanskaya” natural gas field in the hopes boosting supplies of the resource to the Northern Kola Peninsula.

The Murmanskaya field is located some 200 kilometers out on the continental shelf in the Barents Sea, and about 300 kilometers northeast of Norway’s northern coast. The deposit is estimated to hold some 120 billion cubic meters of gas, making it one of considerable size. Drilling will not commence until the project has gone through Russia’s environmental certification process, but Moscow’s zeal to develop Arctic resources mean the development will probably not be put off for long.

The daily gas flow from the field is could reach as much as 1.4 million cubic meters of gas, where Murmansk and Severomorsk combined require about 500 million cubic meters of gas per year. In this case, it is sufficient to drill five wells, two of which would be reserve wells.

“A few days ago, we received news that Rosneft received a license to develop Murmanskaya, which is three times closer to shore than the Shtokman field,” said Kovtun during an interview on Murmansk’s TV-21 (in Russian).

The official website (in Russian) for Russia’s Federal Agency for Subsoil Usage (or Rosnedr) has still not official posted anything about the news.

Rosneft is one of the most environmentally hazardous companies operating in Russia, as judged by its number of accidents and oil spills. It has for many years has chafed at its ranking as Russia’s most ecologically irresponsible oil company.

Rosneft currently owns 46 licenses for oil and gas prospecting and recovery on Russia’s continental shelf.

Kovtun, who has, since her ascendance to the governorship of the Murmansk Region in April 2012, pursued an environmentally friendly mandate, offered no comment in her interview about possible negative environmental outcomes due to Rosneft’s heading of the project. No individuals in her office who had knowledge of the new gas drilling program could be immediately reached for comment by Bellona on Tuesday.

Rosneft in 2012 entered into a lucrative Barents Sea exploration deal with Norway’s Statoil, which elicited howls of environmental disappointment in the state-owned Norwegian gas giant.

“Statoil’s cooperation with Rosneft amounts to a Norwegian endorsement of Russia’s appalling and neglectful environmental policies,” Bellona President Frederic Hauge said when the partnership was announced.

“Statoil’s management knows full well what kind of oil recovery agenda Rosneft represents, and it is not one that is based on environmental or ethical grounds – but rather drill baby drill, the consequences be damned.”

Other observers pointed out hopes that Statoil, with its far better environmental record, might help Rosneft clean up its act. The outcome has yet to be seen.

Roslyakovo village as an arctic shipbuilding center

At the beginning of the year, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin announced that the Russian Ministry of Defense and Ministry of Industry and Trade together with Rosneft had agreed on a plan to situate a civilian and military industrial shipbuilding facility in the Murmansk Region.

This would turn the village of Roslyakovo, with its population of 8,000 located 5 kilometers from Murmansk, the center of Rosneft’ Arctic shipbuilding. Earlier, it became known that Rosneft had acquired Shipbuilding and Repair yard 82 located in Roslyakovo, and would transfer its repair facilities to Shipbuilding and Repair yard no 32 in Murmansk.

The base remaining in Roslyakovo would serve as a technical service point for shelf based drilling rigs, a necessary component for developing Arctic fields.

Shtokman revisited…?

In the summer of 2012, it was finally announced that the development of the Shtokman field would be postponed indefinitely. The announcement came as a huge relief to the environmental community, and seemed to buy sensitive Arctic waters a reprieve from half-baked drilling operations, at least for a time. But, at precisely this moment, conversation shifted to developing the Murmanskaya field in order to gasify the northern Kola Peninsula region.

“We haven’t used the word ‘Shtokman’ in some time,” said in her TV-21 interview. “We rid ourselves of that dream, the decision for which doesn’t depend on us here in Murmansk, on our position.”

“This large-scale project could only be implemented a favorable juncture and in circumstances of high demand for its gas,” she continued.

However, post-Shtokman syndrome has dragged on a bit longer that expected. The dream project, as it was so dubbed by Kovtun, still slowly continues toward realization.

Specifically, on in the Murmansk Region village of Teriberka on April 17, a public hearing on the preliminary environmental impact assessment for the so-called Program for complex marine engineering research of the Shtokman field for 2014-2016 in conjunction with implementing the Shtokman field’s second and third phases of development.

The chief task of planned work encompassed detailed relief mapping of the ocean floor, detailed evaluation of engineering and geological conditions of the upper geological incision of the sea floor, and studies of the hydrometeorological parameters of the project’s water bodies.

The preliminary study will also aim to identify and chart potential hazards and ecological limitations that could influence design, construction and implementation of pipelines and other oil and gas industry structures.

Bellona Murmansk will participate in further public hearings.

This article was translated by Charles Digges (charles@bellona.no).

Anna Kireeva

anna@bellona.ru