Gazprom Neft is developing several Arctic fields concurrently (the company being the first in Russia to start producing oil on the Russian Arctic Shelf, from its Prirazlomnaya ice-resistant platform) as well as developing the gigantic Novoportovskoye and Vostochno-Messoyakhskoye onshore fields. Maintaining the natural balance of fragile Arctic ecosystems while supporting the biological diversity of this harsh region is the company’s overriding objective in implementing its projects in the Russian Far North.
Ecology of the Arctic Shelf
A range of cutting-edge technological solutions are being applied in developing the Prirazlomnoye field, allowing impacts on the nature of the Arctic to be kept to a minimum. Under “zero emissions” technology, used drilling mud, slurry and other wastes are either re-injected into a special absorption well, or returned to the mainland for disposal. Water needed for technological purposes is suctioned in through special fish-protection devices.
To reduce noise disturbance, helicopters flying between the platform and the coastal base fly over the sea at a height of not less than 500 metres, ensuring things are kept comfortable for natural inhabitants.
Close attention is also paid to researching the lifestyles and habitats of walruses around the Prirazlomnaya platform. Research on the coasts of the Vaigach, Dolgy, Matveev, Bolshie and Maly Zelentsi and Vaigach islands (the traditional breeding grounds of the Atlantic walrus as listed in the Red Data Book of the Russian Federation (a state document established for documenting rare and endangered species)) and on the mainland coast have shown no significant fluctuations in walrus migrations and distribution in the Pechora Sea since the commencement of oil production.
Regular analysis of water samples, sea-floor sediments, plankton and benthos (organisms living on or near the seabed in maritime and inland waters) shows the health of the ecosystem to be fully consistent with natural values.
Researching the Arctic narwahl
In 2018 Gazprom Neft began implementing a major programme investigating a rare Arctic creature (listed in the “Red Book” — a directory of Russia’s most endangered species) — the “narwhal” (Latin name Monodon Monoceros — literally the “sea unicorn”). This unique project, being undertaken under the auspices of the Russian Geographical Society, will assess the current status of the narwhal population in the western sector of the Russian Arctic Zone, determining the total number and the distribution of the species, as well as putting in place a conservation programme to protect the narwhal and its habitat — no comprehensive studies into this species having ever been undertaken, to date.
Plans for the project include researching the waters of the north—east Barents and Kara Seas with the help of an ice-class research vessel, undertaking bio-acoustic research, measuring environmental parameters, and marking several of this rare species with the help of satellite transmitters, allowing migrations to be monitored. Based on this research a distribution map will be drawn up, a detailed scientific report compiled, and proposals put forward on strategies for conserving the populations of this rare creature. Gazprom Neft also plans to involve its Arctic fleet and helicopters in collecting data on the narwhal.
Maintaining and reproducing aquatic life
One element of field development concerns a programme to promote the reproduction of aquatic bio-resources. Gazprom Neft subsidiaries working in the Arctic are involved in the breeding and reproduction of rare fish species in northern river basins and seawaters. Millions of maksun fry (a kind of white fish) are being released into the Ob, Konda and Severnaya Sosva rivers. Hundreds of thousands of farmed Atlantic salmon are replenishing the natural reservoirs of the Vyg, Suma and Keret rivers. In 2017, as part of a programme to replenish aquatic bioresources, the company’s businesses released 36 million valuable commercial fish fry into seas, rivers and other bodies of water throughout the Russian Federation.
The ecology of the Arctic tundra
Gazprom Neft is applying cutting-edge environmental protection technologies to preserve the fragile ecosystem of the Arctic tundra in developing its Arctic fields. In developing the Vostochno-Messoyakshoye field, in particular, special supports for an above-ground pipeline section include a thermal-stabilisation system to protect the long-standing permafrost.
The use of directional drilling in constructing the northernmost underwater crossings in Russia — across the Indikyakha and Muduiyakha rivers — has meant the natural river landscape could remain untouched. In addition to which, the oil pipeline, which crosses areas traditionally used by migrating deer herds, is fitted with special crossing points for animals.