Drilling in the frozen Arctic landscape might seem fairly improbable, but Russia and other nations are forming innovative methods for finding oil in the depths of the seabed.
Traditionally, a hole known as a well-bore is drilled into the seabed to detect and then extract oil, should it be found. A device known as a “Christmas tree” (due to its unusual shape) is installed at the top of the well and is designed to monitor pressure and oil flow. However, new designs had to be made to deal with the extremely adverse conditions of the Arctic land. Ice roads have to be formed to transport the oil away from the drilling site, and constructing these roads in the terrain is full of hazards.
Full of icebergs, dangerously cold weather and water at freezing temperatures, the Arctic is not a friendly locale. Horizontal drilling was found to be the solution, as it helps to raise the level of oil garnered from the wells through its larger surface area.
Russia has begun in earnest to put offshore oil drilling into production, as the rate of oil produced from the nation’s terrestrial wells dwindles. Although it is still the largest provider of oil in the world, the Arctic route is seen as a new lease of life for the aging wells.
The country has a long history with oil and with the Arctic. It has been the home of many successful global companies both state-owned and independent (such as Yukos International and Northgas), but now it has to move into the future and into the Arctic to ensure its survival in the market.
The Russian oil contingent has had to develop new ways to drill into the Arctic region to combat the difficult conditions. One such method has been the building of the very first ice-resistant oil platform to be built globally. The Prirazlomnaya platform is Arctic-class, and its development marked the first foray into commercial offshore oil development in the area. The oil field below has reserves of approximately 610 million barrels; the 97 million cubic metres of oil will give an intense boost to the Russian oil market.
With careful drilling methods and innovative thinking to surmount the Arctic’s inherent conditions, Russia stands a chance of making significant returns on its oil drilling investment.