The Russian government is temporarily banning new licenses for offshore field development on the Russian Arctic shelf, the Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Minister Sergei Donskoi has said.
The move appears to be aimed at focusing investment on existing development projects, especially those relating to gas.
Meanwhile, Russia has been attempting to extend its Arctic Continental Shelf by 1.3 million sq km by extending the outer limit of the 200mi exclusive economic zone, through an application to the United Nations.
However, Donskoi told a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin late last week: "Given the macroeconomic instability we face right now, the government decided to temporarily suspend new applications for offshore field development. This will allow companies to concetrate on carrying out their current license obligations and to better distribute their financial resources while carrying out geological exploration."
Just two firms, both state-owned, Gazprom and Rosneft, are the only companies to date which have been given access to Russia's Arctic Continental Shelf.
Donskoi says a total 340 oil and gas fields have been discovered in the Arctic region, including 33 on the Arctic Continental Shelf. He says oil and gas prospecting is underway at 75 licensed offshore sites, covering a total area of 1.3 million sq km in the Arctic region.
Donskoi adds that the Arctic has 20 Tcm of proven natural gas reserves, mostly within the Yamal Peninsula area. "The Unique concentration of these resources requires us to take special measures to encourage tmiely work to start their development. If we fail to do this, Russia risks losign the chance to make full use of this potential for its own benefits.
"Increasing competition between different energy resources on the global energy markets makes it particularly important now to pursue maximum diversification of ways of using Russian natural gas. To achieve this we need to develop a package of measures, including licensing measures, to encourage a higher degree of natural gas processing and to develop LNG production and processing facilities in the region."
Russia is hoping to have its application to extend its exclusive economic zone examined by mid-summer next year, Donskoi added.
Image: Gazpromneft's Prirazlomnoye facility in the Russian Arctic.