TNK-BP moves closer to Russian arctic

MOSCOW, March 7 (UPI) – original article here
Anglo-Russian energy venture TNK-BP could join Rosneft and Gazprom in developing the Russian arctic shelf if terms are good, the Russian prime minister said.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said TNK-BP might be able to persuade its oil and natural gas colleagues to tap into more domestic natural resources if the terms are favorable to all parties involved.

“There is a law, under which we have entrusted Rosneft and Gazprom with work on the shelf,” Putin was quoted by Russia’s official RIA-Novosti news agency as saying. “If TNK-BP offers suitable terms of joint work to one of the companies it can (join the project). Why not?”

TNK-BP, a joint venture between a group of Russian billionaires and BP, is at odds with the British supermajor and Rosneft over an asset swap that included exploration deals in the Russian arctic.

BP in January agreed to pay Rosneft more than $8 billion in shares for a 9.5 percent stake in the Russian energy company in addition to a development agreement for the Kara Sea on Russian’s northern continental shelf.

Putin brushed off the historic rival between TNK-BP and its London counterpart by noting any rivalry is an internal matter for each company to address.

“These are their problems, they must solve them between themselves,” he said.

Putin says BP can help develop arctic oil

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin greets the audience at the United Russia party's congress in St. Petersburg on November 21, 2009.UPI/Anatoli Zhdanov

MOSCOW, March 5 (UPI) -Original article here
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said an oil partnership TNK-BP may help develop Kara Sea oil fields if agreeable terms are offered to Russian companies. 

“There is a law, under which we have entrusted Rosneft and Gazprom with work on the (Arctic) shelf. If TNK-BP offers suitable terms of joint work to one of the companies, it can (participate), why not?” Putin said, RIA Novosti reported Saturday.

Three reserve fields in the Kara Sea, East Prinovozemelsk 1, 2 and 3, are estimated to hold 5 billion tons of oil and 10 trillion cubic meters of natural gas.

British petroleum giant BP agreed in January to a deal valued at more than $8 billion to buy 9.5 percent of Rosneft and participate in Kara Sea development. But TNK-BP shareholders said the deal violated a previous agreement with BP to have all deals in Russia funneled through them.

Putin said BP claimed the agreement was “not absolute and universal, saying they work, for instance, on Sakhalin without TNK, and they hope to solve the conflict amicably or find a compromise.”

Putin said if they did not reach an agreement, it would be up to the courts to sort through the disagreement.


Arctic railway launched, Barents Observer reports

Barents Observer 2011-03-03  – Original article here
The new railway line connecting the Yamal Peninsula with the rest of the Russian railway grid is declared open to regular traffic. Regular operation of the 572 km long railroad to its terminal point – the Karskaya station – was launched in February 15. The line connects major regional installations like the Bovanenkovo gas field with national key infrastructure. The Obskaya-Bovanenkovo railway line will enable Gazprom to easily ship huge quantities of goods and construction materials to its field development sites in Yamal. -The opening of this railway will facilitate all-year-round, quick, cost efficient and not-weather-dependent transport of goods and personnel to the fields in Yamal under the harsh Arctic conditions, a press release from Gazprom reads. Unline other Russian railway lines, the Obskaya-Bovanenkovo line is owned by Gazprom. As previously reported, the Russian Railways have been invited to take over the line, but has shown little interest. Read also: Russian Railways does not want Gazprom’s Yamal railway In addition to railway and field development in Yamal, Gazprom is also investing in the laying of the Bovanenkovo-Ukhta gas pipeline.

Text: Atle Staalesen

Total want to drill Barents with Rosnef

Barents Observer 2011-02-16 – original article here
Total in the Barents SeaCooperates with Gazprom on Shtokman gas – wants cooperation with Rosneft on Barents oil.

French petroleum major Total is in talks with Russia’s oil major Rosneft on joint projects in the Barents Sea, General Director of Total in Russia Pierre Nergararyan told reports in Moscow on Wednesday.

Nergararyan told RIA Novosti that Total want partnership with Rosneft on both the continental shelf in the Barents- and Black Seas.

Total and Norway’s Statoil are partners with Gazprom in Shtokman Development AG, supposed to announce a decision on possible investments for the huge gas field in the Barents Sea next month.

Last October, the Russian Government granted Rosneft and Gazprom five new licenses to oil and gas fields in the Kara Sea and Barents Sea.

In December, BP and Rosneft said they had formed a strategic partnership for development of offshore oilfields in the Kara Sea, east of Novaya Zemlya in the Russian Arctic.


In Russia, a Push for Floating Nuclear Power Plants

“the Arctic, which is inhospitable to terrorists.”

Floating arctic nuclear power plants is sad news, but the above statement made me laugh… I’m not so certain of the absoluteness of that claim!
Maybe terrorists are already holed up there in invisible ice fortresses like in James Bond or like Supermans icy cave?

Floating nuclear power plants certainly seems like a very bad idea, terrorists or not.


An artist’s rendering of the Academic Lomonosov, a Russian floating nuclear power station.

(Ken Stier/Time, 12 November 2010) — Russians have always embraced the Arctic. Thriving communities dot the country’s 4,300-mi (7,000 km) northern border, and the port town of Murmansk — home to 300,000 people — is the largest city north of the Arctic circle. America’s closest competitor? Barrow, Alaska, which has some 4,000 souls.

Servicing these far-flung communities has never been easy. The job has been handled largely by Russia’s fleet of nuclear-powered ice-breakers, hulking vessels that have the massive horsepower needed to ram sea ice up to two meters thick and bring in needed supplies. Keeping these towns heated and lit has been another challenge — one made harder after the collapse of Soviet-era energy and transportation subsidies. Now however, the resourceful Russians have come up with an idea, one that they hope could not only secure the country’s position as the preeminent Arctic power, but also blossom into a lucrative export business: floating nuclear power plants (FNPPs).

The idea of FNPPs is simple, if a little scary: Outfit a barge with two 35-megawatts reactors, float them to a spot off the coast and run cables to land to distribute your power. An FNPP set-up this size could power a city of 200,000.

The concept has some people screaming about “floating Chernobyls,” but the technology is safer than that. For one thing, the portable reactors are fairly proven hardware, derived from those used on the icebreakers. And while any nuclear reactor poses real dangers if something goes wrong, the FNPPs are comparative pipsqueaks — their 35 MW output only a fraction of the Chernobyl plant’s 4,000. A prototype vessel has already been launched at a St. Petersburg shipyard; after reactors are affixed it will be towed to Vilyuchinsk, a city (pop. 25,000) in the Russian Far East that is home to a squadron of nuclear submarines. It is expected to be operational in 2012.

FNPPs could help Russia expand its reach in another critical way: powering the country’s efforts to exploit its off-shore petroleum reserves, 90% of which lie in its Arctic continental shelf. Portable reactors would eliminate the cost and headache of transporting diesel long distances in harsh weather. That has Gazprom, which is keen to develop the world’s largest untapped gas field — Shtokman in the Barents Sea — signed up for several FNPPs from Rosatom, the state nuclear corporation. Other reactors are slated to be used in uranium mining.

“The ultimate objective of the state policy is to transform the Arctic into ‘Russia’s foremost strategic base for natural resources’ by 2020,” notes a Norwegian Defense Institute study, citing Russian documents. Western energy and mining firms are expected to be among the first customers for small reactors — and a number of western vendors, who see a growing global market, have begun developing their own systems. Shell considered one for its energy-intensive exploitation of tar sands in Alberta, Canada. Toshiba has already interested the remote Alaskan town of Galena (pop.700) in a ‘pocket nuke’ of 10 MW, to unshackle it from diesel-fired electricity that costs about 10 times the price paid in the lower 48.

So far though it is only Russia that is promoting water-based plants which, assurances aside, do present a host of new environmental, safety, liability and proliferation challenges.

Then there is the issue of where FNPPs might be deployed. Among a dozen or so countries reportedly interested is Indonesia, which is susceptible to tsunamis, not to mention terrorists who could hijack the vessel and steal radioactive material or simply blow the reactor up, possibly releasing a tremendous cloud of radioactive steam.

Russia’s solution is the Build-Own-Operate model. Host countries would simply buy electricity (perhaps desalinated water too), leaving everything else to the Russians. There would be no transfer of material or technology and Russia would haul waste and spent fuel for reprocessing home every three to four years, and tow the plant for maintenance every 12 years — three times in a plant’s life span.

“Historically, the Soviets and Russians have a dismal track record of nuclear waste management,” says Thomas B. Cochran, a nuclear expert with the Natural Resources Defense Council. But Cochran thinks FNPPs may not pose “a particularly new concern, [but] more of the same” — at least in the Arctic, which is inhospitable to terrorists.

Russia seems determined to improve its reputation for safety, and has announced that it will keep the enrichment level of the fuel in its portable nukes to under 20%, below the weapons-grade threshold. But the Norwegian Radiation Protection Authority worries that Moscow might eventually be tempted to step up its enrichment level to improve profitability since its “main focus” is commercial. Russia’s icebreakers were initially powered by 5% enriched fuel; its present, third-generation models run up to 90% — though in this case the motivation was efficiency, not money.

Still, since 1996, Russia has allowed the U.S., and later the U.K., Sweden and Norway to help patch up vulnerabilities in its icebreaker nuclear fuel cycle, which is a good sign of its seriousness. It’s too early to tell if such cooperation would survive in a commercial sphere, especially one in which Russia has a rare lead in an intense global competition.

Original article here