Investment Portal of the Arctic Zone of the Russian Federation

Geological Surveying in the Arctic Shelf

A shelf is a portion of a continent that is submerged under the sea but shares the same geological structure

19 october 2020

Russia owns about 21% of all continental shelf in the oceans, most of which is located in the Arctic Ocean. The Arctic Shelf has enormous deposits of fossil fuels. The oil and gas fields that have already been explored account for one-fourth of the world's total deposits. So, it is not surprising that countries with an outlet in the Arctic Ocean compete for each and every metre of their marine borders. Russia has rights to a huge slice of this 'pie': 25% of all oil and 70% of all explored gas reserves are located in the Russian part of the shelf.

The Arctic Shelf guarantees that Russia will continue to maintain and further boost its leading position in oil and gas production and export. By 2035, experts estimate that global demand will increase by 10–15% for oil and 35–40% for gas. However, oil companies will inevitably be confronted with the oncoming deficit of oil in traditional deposits and will have to turn to more difficult-to-reach reserves. To tap into this field, Russia has already started exploring fields that will be developed decades in the future.

One of the most important steps of geophysical research is seismic exploration by marine ships using a number of innovative methods, such as high-resolution seismic reflection, ultra-definition echo sounding, and remotely operated underwater apparatus. To increase efficiency and safety, Sevmorneftegeofizika, a subsidiary of RosGeo, developed an innovative design for geoinformation support for marine geological surveying in the Arctic. The system collects information about weather, ice, and the location and activity of ships, and then transmits the data to coastal services that can coordinate the entire operation.

Oil and gas fields can be discovered and examined for their characteristics using studies of electric, magnetic, and gravitational fields, as well as registration of the molecular imprint of fossil fuels on the Earth's surface. Company experts combine these methods to achieve the comprehensive information necessary to evaluate a field.

Russia is also developing innovative technology for exploration drilling, the final stage of works. Exploration drilling is considered to be one of the main priorities of the industry for the coming decade. Experts are already working on a project to construct a floating drilling rig of the highest ice-class with two times the capacity of existing similar platforms.

Around 80 exploration boreholes are expected to be drilled on the Arctic Shelf by 2026. The main phase of exploration drilling will take place between 2020–2022. Currently, only the shelves of two seas have been explored fairly extensively: 20% of the Barents Sea and 15% of the Kara Sea. Other reserves of fossil fuels remain to be discovered. According to the latest estimates, an exploration of the Laptev Sea shelf alone may reveal up to 8,700 mn tons of fossil fuels. The reserves of the shelves of the East-Siberian Sea and the Chukchi Sea might exceed 1 bn tons, which is ten times more than what Russia currently extracts on the Arctic Shelf. The shelf extraction of fossil fuels is expected to triple in the Arctic by 2035.


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