For Kara Sea oilmen, commuting is an Arctic odyssey

It takes several days for the servicemen to make it to the West Alpha rig, now drilling in the Kara Sea.

The oil servicemen involved in the ongoing drilling in the Kara Sea commute up to 5000 km to and from the drillsite.


It might be the most comprehensive commuting in history: the about 2000 people involved in ExxonMobil and Rosneft’s drilling operation in the Kara Sea travel close to 5000 km to and from the project drillsite.

The oilmen, most of them Norwegians, first travel by plane to the Norwegian border town of Kirkenes and from there cross the Russian border to Murmansk. There, in the port of Lavna, they embark a ship which takes them all the way to the far Arctic Kara Sea. All together, the distance is estimated to about 5000 km.

Considering the extreme conditions, a special 3 weeks on - 6 weeks off rotating scheme has been elaborated for the project workers.

The drilling of the University-1 well is the first operation of its kind in the Kara Sea. The project, conducted as part of a comprehensive cooperation agreement between ExxonMobil and Rosneft, is conducted at 74 degrees north, about 160 km east of the Novaya Zemlya and 250 km north of the Russian mainland. As previously reported, about 100 servicemen followed the drilling rig West Alpha when it in late July this year made it from the Westcon Yard in southwest Norway to the Kara Sea. The rig is accompanied by several support vessels, most of them operated by Norwegian sailors.

Two Norwegian companies, the Siem Offshore and the Viking Supply, are both closely engaged in the service operations connected with the drilling.

”Nobody else are working at these altitudes”, Rosneft President Igor Sechin recently said in a comment about the project. ”One year ago, nobody though this operation would be possible. But today we are starting drilling”, he underlined.

The operation is conducted with West Alpha, a rig owned by North-Atlantic Drilling, the Norway-listed company controlled by Seadrill. The rig, which never before has operated in Arctic waters, has been hired by Rosneft for a two-year period.