Oil shipments through Barents Sea could rocket with Rosneft’s new Arctic field

Rosneft and its leader Igor Sechin, right in this 2018 photo, has repeatedly pledged to President Putin that the Vostok Oil will help boost shipments on the Northern Sea Route. (Alexei Nikolsky, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

The Russian state company intends to produce 30 million tons in its Vostok Oil project in 2024. Most of it will be shipped to Murmansk, and from there along the Norwegian coast to the world market.

Vostok Oil will be one of Russia’s biggest ever oil projects. On the vast stretches of the far northern Taymyr region, Rosneft intends to produce an annual 115 million tons of oil by year 2033.

Already by 2024, production is  to reach 30 million tons. Then, 50 million tons by 2027.

According to company leader Igor Sechin, Vostok Oil is one of the most prospective oil production projects in the world with 52 license areas and a resource base of more than 6 billion tons. The project includes the building of several hundred kilometers of pipelines across the desolate tundra to a new terminal on the Kara Sea coast.

Asian countries main market

It is Asian countries that is the prime market for the Vostok Oil. However, Rosneft will not be able to build the carriers  needed for shipments along the eastern parts of the Northern Sea Route by 2024.

A lion’s share of the oil is consequently likely to be sent westwards towards Murmansk and western markets for several years.

Russia is in the process of building a number of new super-powerful icebreakers of the LK-60 class, as well as the Lider-class. However, the first ship of the latter class will be ready for sailing no earlier than in 2027.

Similarly, Rosneft is dependent on a major fleet of ice-class tankers that can ship the oil from the icy waters of the Yenisey Bay and through the Northern Sea Route.

According to Kommersant, the company is now placing a $1.7 billion order for ship building equipment at the South Korean Hyundai Heavy Industries. The components are likely to be used by the Zvezda Yard for the construction of ten tankers for the Vostok Oil, the newspaper reports.

Boosted oil shipments

A contract between Rosneft and the Zvezda Yard is expected to be signed shortly. The ships will have ice class Arc7 and a deadweight of 120,000 tons.

The ten tankers will be the first in a fleet that ultimately could count as many as 30 vessels. As Vostok Oil starts production, the ships will shuttle across the Northern Sea Route to the project terminal in the Yenisey Bay.

However, until those vessels are built, Rosneft will have to take use of existing tankers, which most probably means that it through most of the year will have to choose the less icy path to Murmansk instead of the more difficult eastern route through the Laptev Sea and East Siberian Sea.

In Murmansk, the company might have to build two new oil reloading points, energy analyst Mikhail Grigoriev told Kommersant. After reloading in the Kola Bay, the oil will be shipped along the coast of Norway to buyers on the world market.

The Vostok Oil shipments will consequently lead to a boost in oil transports through the Barents Sea and along Norwegian shores. Oil shipments have for several years significantly increased on the route following the opening of new fields by Lukoil and Gazprom Neft.

More than 20 million tons of oil are today annually delivered from Gazprom Neft’s Novy Port and Prirazlomnoye and Lukoil’s Varandey. The oil is shipped to the Kola Bay where two ship-to-ship reloading terminals handle the oil before it its exported.

That figure could quickly double.

Related stories from around the North: 

Canada:  44 per cent increase in unique ships entering Canada’s Northwest Passage, says report, Eye on the Arctic

Norway: Shipping, climate & business opportunities in the North: Q&A with the Arctic Economic Council, Eye on the Arctic

Russia: Putin says gas from Arctic Russia can provide long-term energy security for Europe and Asia, The Independent Barents Observer

Sweden: Northern Sweden expects population boom from green investments, Radio Sweden

Atle Staalesen, The Independent Barents Observer

For more news from the Barents region visit The Independent Barents Observer.

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