GEO ExPro

Huge Volumes of Oil and Gas Resources in Russia

The use of innovative technologies opens up huge volumes of remote oil and gas resources in the Yamal Peninsula in Russia.
This article appeared in Vol. 16, No. 3 - 2019

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Huge Volumes of Oil and Gas Resources in Russia

The ‘Arctic Gateway’ terminal at Novoportovskoye is designed for year-round operation under extreme climatic conditions, with temperatures below -50°. © GazProm. The largest gas discovery of 2018 was Novatek’s North Obskoye field in the shallow waters of Ob Bay in the northern Russian Yamal Peninsula. 

The discovery is reported to have over 11 Tcf of gas, and Rystad Energy estimate that it holds recoverable resources of around 960 MMboe. 

This highlights the fact that that the Yamal Peninsula is one of the best resourced but little known oil and gas provinces in the world and the location of Russia's largest known untapped gas reserves. 

The Complexities and Challenges of Hydrocarbon Exploration in the Yamal Peninsuala

The bleak, cold Yamal Peninsula in north-west Siberia juts 700 km out into the Kara Sea north of the Arctic Circle. It is 240 km wide and rises no more than 90m above sea level, and it is home to a small human population – and over 200,000 reindeer. It is also 2,230 km as the crow flies from Moscow, the permafrost is up to 300m deep, there are complex geological and hydrological conditions and it is dark for many months of the year – so commercialising oil and gas reserves is challenging.

Bovanenkovskoye is the largest gas field to have been discovered in the Yamal Peninsula. Source: GazProm Hydrocarbons were first identified in Yamal back in the 1960s, but active exploitation of the resources did not commence until the second decade of the 21st century. With over 170 Tcfg initial reserves, Bovanenkovskoye is the largest field in the peninsula. When it and several other major gas fields were discovered in the west-central sector of the Yamal Peninsula between 1978 and 82, Russia began making plans to exploit these resources. After merely two years, however, the challenges involved in commercially extracting and exporting the gas, as well as environmental concerns and cultural issues with the local populace, meant that these plans were suspended. The field finally began producing commercially in 2012, with gas being exported 1,200 km to Ukhta and thence into Russia’s Unified Gas Supply System. The gas is transported at 120 atm – a record high for onshore gas pipelines – and the pipeline crosses part of the Kara Sea, which is covered with ice most of the year: another major technical challenge.

It is a similar story for oil. Novoportovskoye, the largest oil field on the peninsula with over 1,650 MMbo, was discovered in 1972, but it was left undeveloped for 50 years until GazProm’s pilot project began in 2011. With low permeability reservoirs and a complex structural setting in addition to the above ground challenges, this has been a difficult project, but extracting the oil has been achieved using many of the techniques more commonly associated with unconventional exploration, such as horizontal and multilateral wells and multistage fracking. The field is 700 km from the nearest oil infrastructure, so oil is exported to northern Europe by sea all year round by special tankers able to get through ice up to 1.8m thick, supported by nuclear icebreakers. The first oil left Yamal in 2016 and over 40 MMbo was exported in 2017.

LNG is also now being sent from Yamal by sea from a hub in the north-east of the peninsula close to the 32.7 Tcf (2P) South Tambey field, which the new discovery at North Obskoye will be able to tap into. This is a giant integrated project involving a number of operators and service companies. It required the construction of sea and airports and three liquefaction trains, each with a capacity of 5.5 million metric tons, as well as the use of specially built LNG ice-breaker tankers sailing to markets in Asia and Europe.

Huge Volumes of Oil and Gas Potential in Russia

When you look at the potential of the Yamal Peninsula, the figures involved are staggering. More than 30 fields have been discovered so far and, according to GazProm, the total reserves and resources of the Peninsula are 936 Tcfg, 11 Bboe of gas condensate and 2.2 Bb of oil. In 2017 alone Yamal produced nearly 3 Tcf of gas and it is thought that there is potential for this figure to rise to over 12 Tcfg a year. The Yamal Peninsula could be supplying Europe for decades.

Further Reading on Oil and Gas Activity in Russia

Some recommended GEO ExPro articles relating to the exploration of oil and gas resources in Russia.

Western Arctic Russia - The Kara Sea
Thomas Smith
The northernmost oil discovery in the world could be the opening salvo needed to jump start this very prospective frontier area.
This article appeared in Vol. 12, No. 1 - 2016

Caspian Sea: Frontier Exploration in the Middle Caspian Basin
Jaswinder Mann and Gregor Duval, CGG.
CGG multi-client 2D seismic data across the Central Caspian Sea helps provide understanding of current and new petroleum systems in a frontier area.
This article appeared in Vol. 11, No. 4 - 2016

Russian Fold Belts: The Next Hot Play?
Konstantin Sobornov, Nord West Ltd, Moscow
Three successful cycles of petroleum reserve build-up can be recognised in the history of Russian petroleum exploration. Could the fold belts be the basis of the next cycle?
This article appeared in Vol. 12, No. 3 - 2015

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