Crew takes yet another icy winter without drilling

The Prirazlomnaya rig before it was towed out from the yard in Murmansk last autumn. Photo: Thomas Nilsen

The crew of about 200 onboard Russia’s troubled Arctic oil rig Prirazlomnaya will have to take yet another cold winter without drilling.


New date for oil-production at Russia’s only offshore field in the Barents Sea is September or October next year.

The not-yet-ready rig was towed out from Murmansk last autumn to the field located in the very eastern part of the Barents Sea, waters that are ice-covered during the winter season.

Instead of fixing the remaining technical challenges onboard before towing it away from the yard in Murmansk, shipyard workers have been commuting back-and-forth to the platform, located 48 hours by boat from Murmansk. Or a helicopter flight from Narjan-Mar on the Nenets tundra.

Gazprom, the operator of the platform, has over and over again announced delays in the start of oil production at Prirazlomnaya. Production was last time said to start this autumn, but as BarentsObserver reported earlier this week Sovcomflot said they were told that the first oil transport would start in the first half of 2013.

Sovcomflot is the operator of the two special designed ice-classed oiltankers built for serving Prirazlomnaya.

Today, yet another delay was presented. A source close to the project told Reuters that Gazprom has delayed production start until September or October 2013. For the crew of about 200 people it means staying onboard for the second long-lasting winter without drilling oil.

In addition to the rig’s crew, several hundreds of yard-workers are involved. Last winter, 534 people were working on the platform.

“Work won’t start until the company can ensure complete safety,” the source, who did not want to be named, told Reuters.