The Andrey Vilkitsky icebreaker, built as part of Gazprom Neft’s “Time of the Arctic” programme, has been launched in St Petersburg — the Alexander Sannikov icebreaker and six oil tankers having already been brought into operation.*
These cutting-edge icebreakers have been built to order for Gazprom Neft to operate around the Novoportovskoye field’s Arctic terminal in the Gulf of Ob (part of the Kara Sea), ensuring year-round supplies of Novy Port oil to the global market.** They are designed to perform operational activities including icebreaking tanker support, mooring and loading operations, vessel towing, fire fighting, and oil-spill response and lifesaving operations.
The icebreaker is named in honour of the famous Russian hydrographer, surveyor and polar explorer Andrey Vilkitsky. The vessel was designed and built at the Vyborg Shipyard to operate in freshwater systems in the Arctic, which are covered by up to two to 2.5 metres of ice for 200 days of the year: a task made more complicated by strong gales and the shallow waters of the Gulf of Ob. Icebreaking vessels such as the Alexander Sannikov and the Andrey Vilkitsky are vital in ensuring uninterrupted oil supplies from the Polar Circle, carving water channels through which tankers can make their way, safely and unhindered, to the Arctic Gates terminal.
The Andrey Vilkitsky’s unique hull allows it to cut through and break up the ice rather than simply crushing it like other nuclear icebreakers, while its shallow draught and manoeuvrability ensure the efficiency of the vessel. The Andrey Vilkitsky can accelerate up to 16 knots (30 kilometres per hour) in open waters, can complete a full turn within a minute and, with propulsion power of 22 MW, demonstrates icebreaking capacity comparable with nuclear icebreakers of far greater power — advantages made possible by the construction of its hull and three Azipod azimuth thrusters, capable of being rotated 360 degrees, located in the stern and bow.
The icebreaker was launched in 2017, before undergoing technical fitting-out and completion. Having successfully passed mooring and running tests, as well as ice trials, it is now ready to be despatched to the Arctic Gates terminal, its new base in the Gulf of Ob.
Alexander Dyukov, Chairman of the Gazprom Neft Management Board, commented: “This is now the second high-tech icebreaker to be involved in ensuring uninterrupted oil shipments from the Novoportovskoye field, and will help improve efficiency in our work in the waters of the Gulf of Ob. Novy Port is one of the company’s fastest-developing assets. Production volumes at this field increased by more than 40 percent year-on-year. Logistics are playing the vital role here, making it possible to continue shipping and transporting oil through the Kara Sea, regardless of weather conditions. So building these icebreakers was an essential precondition to the further effective development of Novy Port.”
* The “Time of the Arctic” programme covers Gazprom Neft’s activities in the Arctic, including developing the Novoportovskoye field, the Prirazlomnoye field in the Pechora Sea (where oil is being produced from the Prirazlomnaya platform), and the Messoyakha field — the northernmost continental field in Russia. A unique project has been put in place to ensure the year-round transportation of the oil produced, over the Northern Sea Route. These outstanding achievements are not just the result of cutting-edge technologies, the development of Arctic infrastructure and increasing hydrocarbon production. The development of the Arctic involves a major social and humanitarian element, which is becoming an integral part of the programme. This includes environmental initiatives, directed at preserving the unique Arctic ecosystem and animal world, social initiatives to protect the ethnic minorities of the Russian Far North, and joint projects with international companies.
** The Novoportovskoye field is one of the most significant oil and gas condensate fields in the Yamal Peninsula currently under development. It is located some 30 kilometres from the coast of the Gulf of Ob. Recoverable C1 and C2 reserves are estimated at more than 250 million tonnes of oil and gas condensate, as well as more than 320 billion cubic metres of gas.