Most estimates [Granberg et al., 1993; Malovitski et al., 1994] suggest that promising oil- and gas-bearing areas are found on about 90% of all Russian shelves. They cover 5.2-6.2 million square kilometers. Potential recoverable hydrocarbon resources of the Russian continental shelves are estimated within 90 to 100 billion tons of oil equivalent. Natural gas resources account for 80% of them.
Practically everywhere on the Russian shelf, the affinity between the offshore petroleum-bearing provinces and corresponding geological structures of the adjoining inland areas is found. Global experience indicates that in such cases, the oil and gas potential of the shelf fields is higher than that of the onshore accumulations.
The high potential of oil and gas fields of the Russian shelves and thus the security of the hydrocarbon supply in Russia in the foreseeable future are beyond any doubt. At the same time, it is important to stress that these resources are located mostly in remote areas characterized by severe climatic conditions (the Arctic and Far East). The geological and geophysical explorations of these resources have not been extensive enough. They cover, on average, only 0.17 km/km2. This is several times less than the scope of exploration on the shelves of the North Sea, Gulf of Mexico, and a number of other regions.
Two giant oil- and gas-bearing basins found in the West Arctic (on the shelves of the Barents and Kara Seas) cover a total area of 2 million square kilometers. They contain potential resources of at least 50-60 billion tons of conventional fuel (in oil equivalent). The region exploration, including drilling, revealed the existence of ten prolific oil and gas fields [Dubinin, 1994; Malovitski et al., 1994]. The resources of only two of them in the Kara Sea (Rusanovskoe and Leningradskoe) are estimated at 5 trillion cubic meters of natural gas. This amount is very impressive when taking into consideration that worldwide gas production at present totals 2 trillion cubic meters a year.
In the Barents Sea, the Shtokmanovskoe gas condensate field and the Prirazlomnoe oil field in the area of Pechora Bay are of special interest. The Shtokmanovskoe gas condensate field is probably the world's largest known offshore gas field. Its reserves total about 3 trillion cubic meters of gas and more than 20 million tons of gas condensate. Geological oil reserves of the Prirazlomnoe field amount to more than 200 million tons. The oil and gas developments in the region have been in progress since 1992. The large-scale industrial exploitation of these fields is planned to begin between 1998-2000. In the future, these activities might lead to significant changes in the world's system of oil and gas transportation [Parfenov, 1994].
Similar large-scale activities are planned in some other areas of the Russian northern shelves. For instance, in the Jamal area, a gas condensate field is estimated to produce up to 80-100 billion cubic meters of natural gas a year [Mazur, 1993].
The shelves of the Far East and Eastern Siberia have especially good prospects for large-scale and long-term developments of the offshore oil and gas fields. The promising areas in these regions (excluding Sakhalin and its shelf) are estimated at about 1.5 million square kilometers. Potential recoverable resources are estimated at billions of tons of conventional fuel. These reserves are concentrated mostly in the Sea of Okhotsk and the Bering, Chukchi, and East-Siberian Seas. Here, more than 20 oil- and gas-bearing and potentially oil- and gas-bearing basins of different geotectonic nature have been discovered.
Similar activities are in progress on the shelf of Sakhalin. Its rich oil and gas resources discovered a long time ago have been intensively explored for the last 20 years. A number of large oil companies (Exxon, Shell, Marathon, and others) have already accomplished the first preliminary steps of oil and gas developments in the eastern and northeastern areas of the Sakhalin shelf within the frame of the Sakhalin-1 and Sakhalin-2 projects.
Geological reserves of only one of five giant fields located here (Odopinskoe) amount to over 200 million tons of oil and 0.1 trillion cubic meters of gas. The projects of oil and gas development of the Sakhalin shelf stipulate to install large offshore drilling platforms, construct undersea pipelines going to the shore, build onshore complexes for the storage and processing of oil and gas hydrocarbons (including a plant for producing liquefied natural gas), and to lay an inland gas main on the island. Realization of these projects may result in Sakhalin becoming a large oil and gas production center and an important oil and, especially, liquefied natural gas supplier.
Exploratory and production developments of the offshore oil and gas fields on the other Russian shelves (the Caspian, Black, Baltic Seas, and the Sea of Asov) have been in progress for a relatively long time although in a smaller scale. The shallow shelf of the Caspian Sea, particularly its northern part, deserves a special mention. The recoverable hydrocarbon resources of this area are estimated to reach up to 2-3 billion tons, with oil accounting for 70%. At the same time, the exploration and drilling activities here are complicated by the very deep location of petroleum deposits (over 4 km), high reservoir drive, and large amounts of aggressive sulfurous gases [Granberg et al., 1993]. Besides, the Northern Caspian Sea has a unique fisheries value as a region for reproduction of the world's largest population of sturgeon.
For thousands of years, the continental shelf has been used mainly for landing various valuable sea products, including fish. At present, it provides annually over 80 million tons of sea products (in Russia - about 5 million tons). At the end of the twentieth century, the continental shelf has become a place for another large-scale and vitally important activity - oil and gas production. How can these two industries coexist together? Is it possible to extract oil and gas from the sea bottom to the fullest extent without disturbing the ecology of the shelf zone and its priceless biological resources? These and other related issues discussed in Environmental Impact of the Offshore Oil and Gas Industry are extremely important for the stable and environmentally safe development of many countries. The answers to these questions are vital for Russia, which is in the very beginning of developing the world's richest offshore hydrocarbon reserves.
Anthropogenic impact on the shelf and marine pollution - structure and scale of anthropogenic impact on the marine environment are considered. Marine pollution as the main, most wide spread and most dangerous factor of anthropogenic impact is discussed.
Oil pollution of the sea - oil pollution of the marine environment, including sources and volumes of oil input.
Decommissioning of offshore structures - click here if you want to learn about abandonment options and secondary use of offshore structures. Explosive activities to remove obsolete offshore installations and their impact on marine life are also discussed.
Oil and gas accidents - information on drilling, transportation and storage accidents during the offshore oil and gas activities.
Gas impact on water organisms - gas impact on fish and other marine organisms is considered. Results of field and laboratory studies, including biological consequences of accidental gas blowouts are discussed.
Natural gas in the marine environment - chemical composition and biological impact of natural gas in the sea.
Spilled oil in the sea - fate, transformations and behavior of oil and oil hydrocarbons in the sea during an oil spill.
Waste discharges - sources, types and volumes of waste discharges during the offshore oil and gas activity are discussed. Chemical composition of discharged wastes (drilling muds, drilling cuttings and produced waters) is described. Atmospheric emissions and their impact on the marine environment are considered.
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