Russia to build its own offshore platforms to develop Arctic

Russia needs offshore platforms for the development of Arctic reserves. Now their production is located abroad - in Ukraine and Azerbaijan. In this regard, the authorities came up with the idea to create a center for the construction of offshore platforms. Russia has already undertaken to abide by strict environmental standards that require that the objects meet the highest reliability requirements.

"Expert" magazine reported that half a trillion dollars will be invested in shelf designs. A significant portion of these funds will be spent on the creation of different types of drilling platforms. However, now Russian companies are capable of building only the base for such platforms, which means that foreigners will be earning on production of oil equipment for Russia.

In the 1990's there were barely any orders for offshore platforms in Russia. Jackup rig 6500/100 "Arctic", the completion of which has recently been proudly reported by the media, was started in Severodvinsk in 1995, and was to be commissioned in 1998. However, the funding of the project was frozen. Therefore, technologies, equipment and comprehensive modernization of various kinds of offshore drilling in Russia were of little interest to anyone. As for the Arctic shelf, there are serious doubts that platforms with the required parameters are produced anywhere in the world.

Machinery and equipment that will work in the northern latitudes have to withstand extremely low temperatures (up to -50 ° C), ice storms, and seismic vibrations.

There are serious concerns that the producers will prefer to rent the equipment or order it from foreign manufacturers. Rental costs are several hundred thousand dollars a day, and considering an already huge investments in the Arctic shelf, this idea does not seem to be justified from a strategic point of view.

The Russian monopolies signed contracts with foreign mining companies that may like the lease option. In the near future the arctic expanses may become the most capacious market for the equipment for offshore drilling and would become attractive for the largest oil service companies.

In the coming years, "Rosneft" and "Gazprom" are likely to need several dozen platforms. So far, the main work is done with leased equipment. Even the ice-resistant platform "Prirazlomnaya" positioned as Russian has nothing but the base made in Russia. Its top part, including equipment, came from the Norwegian platform "Hatton" that having been working in the North Sea for over ten years.

It turns out that the current Russian maximum is the creation of the base for a platform and the assembly of the rest of it, including equipment, from foreign components. In the USSR, nearly 100 percent of the equipment for drilling rigs was produced by domestic factories. Foreigners at the time took the Soviet drilling rigs that after the modernization have been working well to this day.

In addition to the issue of the lack of facilities, there is a problem of delivering materials and equipment for installation of platforms to the production sites in coastal areas. The main production projects are to be implemented in the Far East and the Arctic. Only Baltic, Caspian and Azov seas are accessible.

The issue requires a multifaceted solution. So far, there are reasons to believe that Russia will once again confirm its status of raw materials appendage. In May information was released that the Russian "United Shipbuilding Corporation" and the American Exxon signed an agreement for the construction of drilling platforms for the work in the Kara Sea. Signing of a firm contract is planned for the fall of 2013. The first phase of the joint project includes 15 platforms, and 50 may be built in the future.

Given the current state of the Russian shipbuilding, Russian shipyards may at best expect a partial fulfillment of the least technical work to create these platforms. According to head of USC Roman Trotsenko, given that the cost of the platform is approximately 800 million, the cost of the USC work will be about a half of that amount.

Considering the fact that the creation of drilling platforms requires the level of technical solutions and approaches close to those of space technology, the Russian government should think about establishing the full cycle of production facilities in Russia, especially since they will be drilling for Russian raw materials in the Russian waters.

Anatoly Miranovsky


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Author`s name Dmitry Sudakov