Prirazlomnaya Rig: Myths and Reality

By Elena Zhuk, November 10, 2013

In September, Greenpeace activists attempted to board the Prirazlomnaya oil rig in the Pechora Sea as part of a protest against hydrocarbon production in the Arctic. Greenpeace proposes to turn the region with a fragile ecosystem into a protected zone. Activists insist the project is an environmental failure and voice numerous complaints.

OGE met with Gazprom Neft Shelf executive director Gennady Lyubin to discuss the issue and obtain the project operator’s firsthand comments on the NGOs’ most frequent allegations in the media, stating that the project fails to comply with environmental safety rules. Besides this, Lyubin also briefed OGE on the project’s current status and its progress.

Oil&Gas Eurasia : Gennady, please tell us about pre-commissioning work on the platform. Will the first wells be completed on time?

Gennady Lyubin : We’re implementing the project in standard mode, on schedule. We plan to start oil production in December. Currently we are performing start-up tests with actual loads and by the end of the year we plan to finish drilling, complete the well and bring on stream our first production well. We also plan to start drilling a second well, which we will complete next year.

OGE: What are the 2014 production plans? When do you expect the peak of output?

Lyubin: Next year we plan to produce some 600,000 tons of oil. Output is expected to peak in 2021 when it should hit the planned production ceiling of 6 million tons per year.

OGE: Did the Greenpeace activists’ attempt to board the platform affect the operations?

Lyubin: The Greenpeace initiative had no serious consequences for the rig. However, at the time of the incident we were performing scheduled underwater monitoring of abandoned exploration wells and rockfill ledges that protect the structure from scouring effect. We had to stop this work because of the threat to divers’ lives.

OGE: I know that it’s quite difficult to access oil and gas facilities and fields. How come that the Greenpeace members were able to approach and nearly board the rig, almost creating (despite the presence of border guards and rig staff) an emergency situation? 

Lyubin: I’d rather call it a non-standard situation. You should understand that an offshore rig is a facility with restricted access for a reason. There are certain requirements, and if you ignore them, you might endanger the lives of many people. In our case – the divers’ lives. The events could have taken an unpredictable turn leading to tragic consequences. Therefore, compliance with the rules is the main guarantee that the situation will stay under control and nothing will threaten the safety of our employees.

OGE: Let’s turn to technology issues. Some environmental organizations say that in today’s world there are no technologies available to provide an adequate response to an oil spill under the ice. What solutions are used in your project to address this issue?

Lyubin: Today, the market offers a multitude of tools and equipment for oil spill