Greenpeace scales West Alpha

Monday, March 24, 2014

Greenpeace has said five of its 14 activists have scaled the West Alpha semisubmersible drilling rig offshore Norway in protest against ExxonMobil’s plans to drill in the Russian Arctic. 

The protest has been staged on the 25th anniversary of the Exxon Valdez oil spill. The rig, on which the activists unfurled a banner stating “No Exxon Valdez in Russian Arctic”, is due to be used by ExxonMobil for drilling in the Kara Sea, offshore Russia, later this year. 

According to Norwegian media, the driling will be at Akademichskoye, a prospective structure at the Prinovozemelsky-1 license. 

Rosneft launched projects in the Kara and Barents Seas in 2010, after obtaining four licenses to explore Russia's Arctic shelf. Three of the licenses relate to blocks in the Kara Sea (East Prinovozemelsky 1, 2 and 3), with the fourth in the Pechora Sea. 

According to Rosneft, the Kara Sea is an extension of the West Siberian oil and gas province, which accounts for 60% of Russia's current oil production. The sea is 40-350m deep, with difficult ice conditions (ice-bound for 270-300 days a year). 

Winter temperatures plunge to minus 46˚С. Ice ranges in thickness from 1.2-1.6m. 

Rosneft says geological studies of the South Kara basin have identified a number of major prospective structures, including Universitetsky, Vikulovsky, Tatarinov, Rozhdestvensky, Kropotkinsky, Rogozinsky, Rozevsky, East Anabarsky, Matusevich, and Vilkitsky.

In the autumn of 2011 Rosneft and ExxonMobil signed a strategic cooperation agreement for joint development of the three East Prinovozemelsky blocks in the Kara Sea.

ExxonMobil has a contract to use Seadrill's West Alpha in Norway/ Russia from August 2014 to July 2016, on a US$527,000 day rate, with an option out to July 2017, at a higher $549,000 rate.

Greenpeace says the area where Exxon is planning to drill overlaps with the a protected Russian Arctic National Park, which is home to polar bears and bowhead whales, and includes walrus rookeries and one of the largest bird colonies in the northern hemisphere. 

Categories: Russia Arctic Safety & Security

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