First discovered in 1943, Tatneft’s Romashkinskoye oilfield was the first of Russia’s mega fields of platform type geology to be produced using contour waterflooding. Data gleaned in 1943, however, was not all that impressive and it took a second look, in 1948, to discover the Devonian layers where 90 percent of the field’s reserves were hidden. Initial reserves were estimated at 3,922 million tons in an area covering 425,000 hectares. Sixty-five years on, Romashkinskoye is still in production, pumping 15 million tons a year to market. As Oil&Gas Eurasia’s special “Salute to Oilmen’s Day”, we offer here a retrospective on this grand “old man” of an oilfield.
The history of oil discovery in Tatarstan, and in particular, discovery of the Romashkinskoye field, is truly dramatic. It relates closely to the development of concepts of oil formation and accumulation. That is why the prolific Romashkinskoye field was discovered more than once.
In Tataria, as Tatarstan is traditionally called, oil seepage at the surface was recorded a long time ago. This was the main petroleum search factor at the first stage of the petroleum geology development. However, drilling had negative results for a long time. When the communists came to power, several expeditions were sent to this region (with the participation of Ivan Gubkin) in the period from 1918 to 1924, but all of them failed. In 1925, the Geological Committee of the Supreme Economic Council – the main Soviet geological exploration agency, wrote in its Review of the USSR Mineral Resources about fields located between the Volga River and the western slopes of the Ural Mountains: “In respect of oil production, all fields in that area are of no special interest.”
Geologists grouped into supporters and opponents of the Ural-Volga oil. The second half of the 1920s and the first half of the 1930s was spent on the so-called rehabilitation of the “second Baku” (this name the Ural-Volga oil-and-gas bearing province received at the suggestion of the USSR chief petroleum geologist Ivan Gubkin). In late 1920s, oil exploration was resumed, and oil was discovered on the territory of the modern Perm and Samara regions and the Bashkortostan Republic. However, search for oil in the very heart of the “second Baku” – Tataria – kept failing, though there were indirect signs of oil presence. At one of the meetings in 1936, Ivan Gubkin signed a decree which stated: “Abundance of oil shown in the form of tar sand and availability of structures favorable for oil accumulations put Tataria among promising oil bearing regions.”
However, oil beds in the traditional oil producing regions of the former Russian Empire, such as Apsheronsky and Severokavkazsky, were located significantly shallower compared to the Ural-Volga oil-and-gas bearing province. The search for oil in the Ural-Volga region demanded from geologists courage directrly proportionate to the depths of exploration targets – Permian, Carboniferous or Devonian. Under Stalin’s regime, a “dry” well could cost the misfortunates a “trip” to remote northern fields. This cruel dependence restrained initiative even