Russia Seeks to Rev Up Shelf Exploration Effort

Map of Barents Sea and Polar Environs

NOVY URENGOI, January 15 (RIA Novosti) – Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev on Tuesday called for more intensive exploration of Russia’s oil- and gas-rich continental shelf, stressing that all shelf development projects should be long-term.

“The [current] pace of geological surveys on the continental shelf is insufficient,” he said.

Medvedev listed a number of reasons for the slow progress, including the natural, climatic and geological specifics of the shelf, which spans an area in excess of 6 million square kilometers, adding that distant waters in particular “have been studied very poorly.”

An array of mechanisms is being developed to intensify geological surveys on the continental shelf, both with funding from the federal budget and state-controlled companies, and new regulations for the use of natural resources are pending, Medvedev said.

All shelf development projects should be long-term as only that will help raise sufficient financial resources, he stressed.

Natural Resources Minister Sergei Donskoi proposed that the right to develop sections of the shelf unclaimed by state-controlled companies be ceded to private oil and gas companies.

Recoverable hydrocarbon resources on Russia’s continental shelf have been estimated at 98.7 billion tons of oil and gas in fuel equivalent.

At present, companies that want to acquire licenses to work on the Russian shelf have to have a minimum of 50 percent state ownership. Foreign companies and Russian private companies have to conclude contracts with Gazprom or Rosneft.

The Ministry of Natural Resources has repeatedly proposed that this list be expanded, including the addition of foreign companies.

It has also been proposed that licenses be split up so that geological surveys are regarded as a separate type of mineral-resource use. In the current situation, companies have to obtain so-called combined licenses including surveys, exploration and exploitation.