Russia's Rosneft has made a major oil and gas discovery in the Arctic Kara Sea following the drilling of the northernmost well in the world in the East-Prinovozemelsky 1 block, which it explores together with ExxonMobil, the company said Saturday.
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"According to preliminary results, the resource base of the first hydrocarbons trap discovered through the drilling is estimated to hold 338 billion cubic meters of gas and over 100 million mt (730 million barrels) of crude," Rosneft's CEO Igor Sechin said in a statement.
"This is light crude comparable to the Siberian Light blend, according to the initial tests," he added.
The announcement came days after the US imposed new sanctions against Russia over its role in the Ukrainian crisis. Under the latest round of sanctions, any US entities and citizens had to "wind down" Russian projects focused on development of deepwater oil reserves, Arctic and shale oil reserves before September 26.
But the US authorities moved the deadline for ExxonMobil operations in the Kara Sea to October 10, to provide more time for the company to complete its work in a safe mode to avoid any potential environmental risks.
The sanctions raised concerns that if ExxonMobil as well as some Western service companies were to halt the drilling, it would lead to significant delays to Russian plans to explore its Arctic waters.
Sechin has said earlier that the companies were hoping to discover a major oil province in the Kara Sea, with reserves comparable to that in Saudi Arabia.
The partners, however, completed the drilling "in record-breaking time -- in one and a half months -- in compliance with all the technological and ecological standards and requirements," Rosneft said. It was initially expected that the drilling would continue for around two months, during the ice-free season that lasts from August through mid-October.
Sechin has said that he prized highly the joint efforts with Western companies in receiving "outstanding results" of making a discovery through drilling of the first exploratory well in the new area.
"This is our united victory, it was achieved thanks to our friends and partners from ExxonMobil, Nord Atlantic Drilling, Schlumberger, Halliburton, Weatherford, Baker, Trendsetter, FMC," he said. "We would like to name this field Pobeda (Victory)."
The well was drilled to a depth of 2,113 meters in open-water conditions, 250 km off the Russian coast, according to Rosneft.
As a result of the drilling, "a significant volume of new geological data is received, its (further) interpretation would allow to evaluate more precisely the resource base of the discovered field," Sechin said.
Rosneft owns 66.67% in the project, with ExxonMobil owning the remaining 33%. The agreement provides for joint work at three East Prinovozemelsky blocks in the Kara Sea, where some 30 structures were found. The combined resource base of the three blocks is estimated at 87 billion barrels or 13 billion mt of oil equivalent, according to Rosneft.
Rosneft said that prior to the start of operations in the Kara Sea, the West Alpha drilling rig, operated and owned by the Nord Atlantic Drilling, was heavily upgraded, which, among other things, was needed to guarantee ecological safety.
The rig was equipped with two groups of blowout preventers and an independent submarine locking device, which, in case of minor risks would seal the well. The rig was held at the drilling site by an anchoring positioning system, consisting of eight anchors. This guaranteed an elevate rig stability. Most of the platform was out of the reach of the waves, which could disturb its operations. The rig was capable of drilling to a depth of up to 7 km.