Russian Arctic shelf monopoly prevailing

Rosneft and Gazprom reaffirm their monopoly position on the Arctic shelf. Photo: semisubmersible rig "Polyarnaya Zvezda" (

This year’s Christmas present for Russian state companies Rosneft and Gazprom is a big number of new licenses in Arctic waters.


The Russian state generosity for Rosneft and Gazprom seems to have no limits, at least not on the Arctic shelf. The Federal Mineral Agency (Rosnedra) now approves Rosneft’s application for another 12 offshore licenses in the area, RBC Daily reports. In addition, as recently reported by BarentsObserver, Rosneft last month got another two licenses.

At the same time, Rosnedra last week informed that it had received an application from Gazprom for license rights to another 17 new blocks in the Barents Sea and the Kara Sea, an agency press release informs.

IInstead of opening the shelf for private companies, as originally proposed by the Ministry of Natural Resources, it is likely to continue the current regime only with minor adjustments. According to today’s legislation, only state-controlled companies with at least five years of offshore experiences are allowed to operate Arctic shelf projects. 

With the many new field licenses granted to Rosneft and Gazprom, the number of prospective offshore waters left are rapidly shrinking, leaving limited opportunities for private companies like Lukoil to take on shelf engagements. “There will simply be no prospective areas left”, an analyst told newspaper Kommersant.

The 12 new Arctic licenses of Rosneft have total resources estimated to 29 billion oil equivalents and are located in widely different parts of the Russian Arctic, including the Pechora Sea, Kara Sea, East-Siberian Sea, Chukchi Sea and Laptev Sea. The new licenses bring the company’s total number of offshore Arctic fields to 28 and the total resources to about 190 billion tons of oil equivalents. Arctic offshore resources now account for up to 90 percent of the company’s perspective reserves, reports.

Also for Gazprom, the additional 17 licenses will further boost the weight of offshore fields in the company’s reserves portefolio. From before, Gazprom has offshore reserves estimated to about 5,3 trillion cubic meters of gas, as well as 73,9 million tons of gas condensate and 47,4 million tons of oil (2010). 

Of Gazprom’s 17 new license applications, five are to fields in the Barents Sea (the Demidovskoye, Medvezhee, Ludlovskoye, Ledovoye and Fersmanovskoye fields) and 12 in the Kara Sea (the Yuzhno-Obskoye, Sharapovskoye, Skuratovskoye, Severo-Kharasaveyskoye, Rusanovskoye, Obruchevskoye, Nyarmeyskoye, Leningradskoye, Zapadno-Sharapovskoye, Amderminskoye, Nevskoye and Morskoye fields)