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We will step up Arctic exploration, says Rosneft

Rosneft's first exploration drilling in the Arctic will take place in 2014 at the Universitetskoye structure.

A key part of the company’s compromise with the Russian government is an extended level of mapping of Arctic waters.

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As previously reported, the state-owned oil major is likely to win the government’s approval for the acquisition of another 12 licenses in Arctic waters. The new federal shelf development programme discussed by cabinet ministers and the petroluem industry this week will give Rosneft and Gazprom continued preferences on the shelf. Non-state companies, meanwhile, will get license rights only in fields not wanted by the two monopoly companies.

However, both Rosneft and Gazprom will have to commit themselves to stepping up mapping and exploration.

Rosneft in a letter submitted to the government just hours before this week’s meeting says it will increase 2D seismic works to 0,35 lineal km per 1 square km of water in the license areas.

The stepped-up exploration is an absolute demand from the Ministry of Natural Resources. In Tuesday’s meeting, Minister Sergei Donskoy said that the level of knowledge about the Russian Arctic shelf is ”extremely low” because of the insufficient level of seismic works conducted.

The level of seismic mapping has long been a point of controversy in relations between Rosneft and the Ministry of Natural Resources. While the former faces major capacity challenges following its many new Arctic licenses, the latter is under pressure to meet ambitious shelf production objectives included in federal programs.

According to Kommersant, Rosneft says it will meet the time schedule for its operations in the Kara Sea. The first exploration drilling for the Prinovozemelye fields, areas included in the comprehensive cooperation agreement with ExxonMobil, is set for 2014. The first drilling will take place at the Universitetskoye field, a field which alone will ”open a new oil and gas province in the Arctic”, Rosneft President Igor Sechin said.

As part of its cooperation with Rosneft, ExxonMobil in summer 2012 started seismic mapping of the huge waters of the Kara Sea.