Norwegian ships accompany Chinese rig to Russian Arctic drill site

When the Nan Hai Ba Hao begins drilling in Russian waters, it will be with the support of Norwegian supply ships.

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 via The Independent Barents Observer)

A fleet of supply ships, including some from Norway, surround the Chinese drill rig Nan Hai Ba Hao as it prepares to spud a well in Russia’s Kara Sea.

The rig, also referred to as the Nanhai 8, set out from Murmansk toward remote Arctic waters on July 6. Among the ships that towed the 15,469-deadweight-ton installation was the Siem Emerald, a support ship owned and operated by Norwegian company Siem Offshore.

The rig is now on site in the Kara Sea. According to information from authorities in Murmansk, it will drill on the Leningradskoye and Skuratovskoye fields, two license areas located along the west coast of the Yamal Peninsula.

In the area are also several more support ships, among them the Siem Diamond, Sea Supra, Norsea Fighter, Ocean Zephyr and Odin Express, information from the Russian Northern Sea Route Administration shows. The latter two are owned and operated by the Latvian company Baltic Shipping. The former three are Norwegian ships.

The Kara Sea has over the last three years been main offshore drilling area in Russia’s Arctic.

The Nan Hai Ba Hao first came to Arctic waters in 2017, when it drilled in the Leningradskoye license area and expanded the resource potential of the structure by more than 850 million cubic meters of gas to a total of 1.9 trillion cubic meters. The year afterwards, it was back in the area to drill in the nearby Rusanvoskoye area. Both operations were made in cooperation with Russia’s natural gas company Gazprom.

The Chinese rig is built in 1983 and is owned and managed by the China Oilfield Service Limited (COSL).

The Nan Hai Ba Hao will not be alone in the Kara Sea. The Russian rig Arkticheskaya is also preparing to drill in the area. The Arkticheskaya, owned by Gazprom subsidiary Gazprom Flot, reportedly set out from Murmansk on July 9.

Still moored in the Murmansk port are Norwegian support ships Sea Surfer and Sea Spear, both operated by Solstad Shipping.

The hydrocarbon resources in the Kara Sea are believed to be of vast proportions. Gazprom controls the lion’s share of the license areas. Novatek owns areas in the Gulf of Ob and in 2018 drilled in the Severo-Obskoye license. Results showed at least 320 billion cubic meters of reserves.

Rosneft also owns major license areas in the Kara Sea. In 2014 it drilled at the field later named Pobeda (“Victory”). The drilling was done in a major operation conducted together with U.S. company ExxonMobil and results reportedly indicated resources up to 500 million tons of oil.