Chinese rig to return to Russia’s Kara Sea this summer in hopes of third major find

Two finds by the “Nan Hai Ba Hao” in two years have nearly doubled the size of the Kara Sea’s potential reserves

By Thomas Nilsen, The Independent Barents Observer - May 20, 2019
The crew of the “Nan Hai Ba Hao” are officially welcomed to Murmansk before heading to the Kara Sea in the summer of 2017. (Government of Murmansk)

Chinese drilling rig Nan Hai Ba Hao is due to begin a third drilling season in the Kara Sea this summer in the hopes of putting a new discovery under its belt and adding to the 35 trillion cubic feet (1 trillion cubic metres) of natural gas it has already discovered in the region.

Weighing in at 15,469 tons when fully loaded, and home-ported in Shenzhen, in southern China, the Nan Hai Ba Hao was active in the Kara Sea in 2017 and 2018. In 2017, it drilled in the Leningradskoye license area and expanded the resource potential of the structure by more than 30 trillion cubic feet of gas, raising the total reserves to 67 trillion cubic feet. Last year, it was back in the area to drill in the nearby Rusanvoskoye area. Both operations were carried out with Russian natural gas company Gazprom.

Gazprom now confirms that the 2018 drilling at Rusanvoskoye indicated reserves of 13.8 trillion cubic feet of gas. The discovery has been named after Soviet Energy Minister V.A. Dinkov and is located at 72 degrees North, about 160 miles (100 km) off the west coast of the Yamal Peninsula.

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With the discovery of the V.A. Dinkov field, the Nan Hai Ba Hao has made two of Russia’s biggest offshore findings of the past decade. The accumulated resources of the discoveries amount to more than 42 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.

The Nan Hai Ba Hao is owned by the China Oilfield Service Limited and is also known as the Nanhai VIII.

It will be back in Russian Arctic waters in this summer, according to the Northern Sea Route Administration.

In 2018, the rigs Arcticheskaya and the Amazon were also active in the Nyarmeysky and Severo-Obskoye license areas of the Kara Sea, respectively. The rigs are owned by Gazprom Flot, a subsidiary unit of Gazprom.

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According to Gazprom, the drilling at the Nyarmeysky indicated reserves of 4.5 trillion cubic feet. The Severo-Obskoye structure holds more than 10.5 trillion cubic feet, license holder according to license-holder Novatek.

The discoveries in the Kara Sea come as both Gazprom and Novatek are making unprecedented field developments in the nearby Yamal Peninsula.

Gazprom operates the Bovanenkovo field and will in 2023 begin production at the Kharasavey field. Novatek operates the Yamal LNG project and is developing the Arctic LNG 2 project.

The resources of offshore structures like the Severo-Obskoye can potentially be included in the Novatek’s major investments in liquified natural gas in the Arctic.