Floating Oil Exploration Platform to be Tested in Russia

The Institute of Oil and Gas Geology and Geophysics of the Russian Academy of Sciences suggest using for oil exploration in the Arctic a platform on an ice floe, an expert at the Institute’s geo electricity laboratory Vladmimir Mogilatov told TASS.

The technology may be tested partially on ice of the Ob Reservoir near Novosibirsk, he added. “We do not have geological goals, we just wanted to test the technology on ice: to see, how we would be able to land into water,” he explained. “The thing is, even mere trying in the North is very expensive and complicated.”

“Quite possibly, besides, we may get some geological results, but this is not the goal,” he said.

For this and other preparatory works the institute has applied for a grant of 20 million rubles (about $349,000), expecting a decision by late February. Further on, scientists hope the project will attract interest from major oil producing companies, like Gazprom or Rosneft. The institute is unable to implement the project by itself: the cost of launching a station of the kind in the Arctic is about 100 million rubles (about $1.7million).

The project still requires more scientific research, but in case of a client and sufficient financing the scientists would be able to launch the station in a year’s time already. “When we have a client, and when the client offers good financing, and we are able to get to some ice floes near shore, to test in practically natural conditions, then the next stage would be getting on to years-old ice,” he explained.

Vertical electric currents through ice

Sea water and ice make useless most traditional geological methods. Thus, the Institute has suggested using for Arctic research the unusual method of probes by vertical electric currents. It is based on use of a specifically complex electric field source (round electric dual field) to fix in responses minor anomalous effects. This is one of the few methods, which may be used in the Arctic conditions.

A smaller version of the geological exploration system has been tested successfully, the scientist said. Now, it will be made bigger and then scientists will put it on the ice. Scientists began considering this method of oil exploration as they studied at first the Soviet stations, and later the Russian “North Pole” station. These floating stations in the Arctic are used mostly for meteorology purposes. New tests with geo-physic stations will show resources in the Arctic basin – oil first of all.

The geology station will be drifting along the route of the North Pole station, though it is not yet clear, whether it will be working autonomously, or may require certain personnel to run the process and fix failures if necessary. The drifting system will use renewable energy sources: wind generators and, probably, solar panels.

Work always comes first

The scientist spoke about the big importance of the project especially at the times when continue geo-political disputes about ownership for resources in the Arctic Ocean. “These disputes are settled the following way: he is right who is working, he has right who is involved, and all the rest is just talk,” the scientist said. “Thus, works are very important.”

Occasional geo-physical research works in the Arctic Ocean were made earlier, too, he continued. Sometimes, scientists had to ask for assistance of icebreakers, and thus geological exploration became extremely expensive. With this new project, however, the cost would not be higher than average works in the North cost.

Earlier, Academician Alexei Kontorovich said oil deposits in the Arctic may be bigger than we think now. Current estimate are at 100 billion tonnes of oil and gas, where about 80% is gas. The academician said results of geological exploration could change the ratio to oil’s bigger share.

Walruses and the oil

President of the Siberian division of the Russian Academy of Sciences Alexander Aseyev in a conversation with TASS stressed importance of geological exploration in the Arctic, though warning against possible ecology problems. “Anyway, work in the Arctic is of high ecology-related risks,” he said. “We are not the Gulf of Mexico, where fish and crabs are eating oil, so to say. Walruses would not eat oil. The nature is fragile and recovery may take centuries.”

And still, the academician is positive geological exploration must be done, as now scientists face the task of studying most accurately structure of the Earth’s crust at yet bigger depths. “The idea to use floating ice is probably correct, since it is necessary to analyze what there is in the underwater layers,” he said.

The very idea is fine, though it is most important the project becomes attractive for oil companies, as it is impossible to implement it at expense of the Academy of Sciences’ budget, he added.