Gazprom Neft is lacking vital permissions for offshore Arctic drilling at its Dolginskoye field planned for this year, which could make drilling there illegal.
According to an official letter from the Russian Federal Service for Supervision of Natural Resource Use (Rospriradnadzor) to Greenpeace Russia, as of the end of July 2013 the company was lacking both an environmental impact assessment certificate for the drilling rig GSP Jupiter’s technical documentation, and also lacking the rig’s documentation for constructing a well in the Barents Sea at Dolginskoye field.
The assessment procedure required usually takes several months. This means that if Gazprom Neft didn’t obtain these permissions before September 2010, when the assessment function sat with another agency (Rostechnadzor), there is no opportunity for Gazprom Neft to drill legally with GSP Jupiter for the rest of the year. It’s very unlikely Gazprom Neft obtained the permission as far back as 2010 because the GSP Jupiter was only contracted to drill at Dolginskoye in March 2013.
The absence of vital permissions didn’t prevent Gazprom Neft-Sakhalin (a subsidiary of Gazprom Neft contracted to operate the Dolginskoye oil field) from announcing in May 2013 that it “got a green light from the state environmental authority to drill a well at Dolginskoye field.”
The company intended to start drilling an exploratory well at Dolginskoye between May and October 2013, during the ice-free period. Just a few days ago Russian President Vladimir Putin declared at the G20 Summit that “No project in the fragile Arctic will be implemented without the strictest environmental assessment.”
The GSP Jupiter drilling rig has no previous experience drilling in the Arctic, and has operated only in southern waters for the past 26 years. It is a jack-up rig that relies on an older Orion pin-and-hole system to raise itself on its legs, meaning it can only be safely raised in relatively calm seas. GSP Jupiter clearly does not demonstrate the “best available technologies” which is a principle of Russian Federal Law “on Environmental Protection” (Arcticle 3). Based on this Greenpeace Russia sent letters in June 2013 to the Russian Ministry for Subsoil Use and the Ministry for Natural Resources asking them to stop GSP Jupiter from drilling at Dolginskoye.
“This is just the most recent example in a long list of Gazprom’s irresponsible and dangerous operations with regards to Arctic drilling. Last year, Gazprom Neft Shelf was preparing to drill at Prirazlomnoe field without an approved oil spill response plan. In 2011 Gazprom’s subsidiary Gazflot started drilling in the Okhotsk Sea without an environmental impact assessment, and afterwards the infamous Kolskaya rig that was contracted for that drilling overturned and sank while it was being towed killing 53 people.” Commented Vladimir Chuprov, Energy Unit Head of Greenpeace Russia.