Russia's biggest oil company is ready to explore its northernmost license area. Photo: Rosneft

As sea-ice shrinks to record-low, Rosneft prepares for northernmost ever drilling

A drillship is on its way towards the northern parts of the Kara Sea.
September 28, 2020


The Bavenit on the 25th September left Murmansk with course for Rosneft’s far northern license area in the Kara Sea. According to the company, the ship will spud wells in the waters near archipelago of Severnaya Zemlya.

It could be the northernmost wells ever drilled in the Arctic. The vast Severo-Karsky license area stretches up to the 80th parallel.

Water depths in the area are up to 120 meter.

“Tremendously important”

According to Rosneft, the main purpose of the project is to collect core samples that will help it get information about regional geology and the oil and gas resource potential. It will have tremendous importance for science, the company underlines.

Rosneft has a total of 28 licenses in Arctic waters, of them 19 in the western part of the Arctic region. Map by

The technology applied in the operation allows the company to drill without any negative  effects on nature, representatives of Rosneft underline. The drilling follows geological expeditions to the archipelagos of Novaya Zemlya and Severnaya Zemlya, as well as a series of seismic studies in the area.

It is the first time ever that drilling is conducted in the northern parts of the Kara Sea, Rosneft informs.

Ice-free waters

The Bavenit is owned and operated by state company Rosgeo, and considered among the best in world of its kind. The ship built in Finland in 1986 recently underwent a series of upgrades that enables it to engage in the northernmost parts of the Russian Arctic shelf.


The Bavenit. Photo:

As the ship moves into the area, presumably in the course of this week, it will encounter only scattered pieces of sea-ice. Maps from the Russian Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute show that the Arctic ice edge has now receded almost to the 80th parallel.

The summer of 2020 has had the second lowest levels of Arctic sea-ice on record.

More drilling

In addition to the drilling in the Severo-Karsky license area, Rosneft this summer has also conducted exploration of two wells in the more southernly parts of the Kara Sea.

Extension of the Arctic ice sheet by 22 September 2020. Map by

In his meeting with President Putin in August this year, company leader Igor Sechin confirmed that he has two rigs drilling in the waters outside archipelago Novaya Zemlya.

Well drilling at the Vikulovskaya and Ragozinskaya started on the 22 July and was conducted by two rigs that had been towed to site from Murmansk.

The wells are located in the Vostochno-Prinovozemelsky 1-2 license areas, nearby the drillsite where Rosneft in 2014 made a major discovery in partnership with ExxonMobil.

According to Sechin, the shallow waters and drifting icebergs in the area complicated operations and the company decided to drill a two meter wide, 15 meter deep shaft that facilitates exploration.

It is the first time ever in Russia that such a procedure has been made in offshore drilling, he told Putin. The two rigs refered to by Sechin are likely to be the same that this summer drill two wells in the Kara Sea for Gazprom.

Rosneft is the company that holds most the offshore license areas in the Russian Arctic. According to the company, it has a portfolio of 55 offshore licenses, of which 28 are in the Arctic. The resource potential of the offshore licenses is estimated to 41 billion tons of oil equivalents.




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