Russia moves forward on a railway to the Northern Sea Route to Sabetta

A rail link from Sabetta to the rest of Russia's national grid topped the agenda when Yamal's acting governor met with Pres. Putin on Tuesday.

Train running on the Yamal railway. (Gazprom.ru via The Independent Barents Observer)

If Russia is to fulfill its high ambitions for the Northern Sea Route, it might need to build a railway to Sabetta, and acting Yamal-Nenets Governor Dmitry Artyukhov underlined that need in a meeting with President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday.

“Vladimir Vladimirovich — you have been there yourself, it is of course a crucial center for current Arctic developments and without doubt, the main center for development of the Northern Sea Route”, Artyukhov said as the two men met in Novo-Ogaryevo, Putin’s residency outside Moscow.

Sabetta, on the northern tip of the Yamal Peninsula, has in few years been transformed from a small desolate village to a vibrant industrial town with more than 20,000 inhabitants. A major share of all goods shipped out along the Northern Sea Route today comes from Sabetta.

And more is to come.

The LNG plant on site will soon produce more than 17 million tons of liquefied natural gas per year, all of which it is shipped out through Arctic waters to clients in both Asia and Europe. According to Leonid Mikhelson, CEO of Novatek, the volumes will increase to 60 million tons by year the 2030 as the next projects, the Arctic LNG 2 and the Arctic LNG 3, comes into operation.

With the major boost in industrial production comes a need for new infrastructure.

“Our objective is to expand the grid of the Russian Railways to Sabetta,” Dmitry Artyukhov told Putin. “I am sure that we will make it,” he underlined and highlighted the key role of Gazprom and the Russian Railways in project developments.

Vladimir Putin has himself on several occasions expressed support for the developments in Yamal. Already in his big annual press conference in 2015, the president made clear the he wants to see Sabetta develop into “a universal port for all kind of goods.

”This is a very convenient place with really good logistics,” he underlined.

The first part of the so-called Northern Latitudinal Passage project will be launched this winter, Yamal-Nenets leader Artyukhov makes clear. Construction machinery is on its way to the region and the first object to be built is a major bridge across the Ob River. It is considered the most complicated part of the project. Subsequently, construction workers will proceed with the building of 350 kilometers of new railway which ultimately will connect the current Northern and Sverdlovsk lines.

The project launch comes after Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev on the 15 August signed the project concessional agreement.

The building of railway to Sabetta constitutes the second part of the Northern Latitudinal Passage. The line will be an extension of the current Bovanenkovo railway which today is owned and operated by Gazprom.

“The development of the project Northern Latitudinal Passage-2 includes the efficient launch of a huge Russian oil and gas province, the boost of shipping on the Northern Sea Route and significant effects on the economy and the budget system,” Artyukhov underlined in a meeting with project partners earlier this week.