The Arctic continental shelf is believed to be the area with the highest unexplored potential for oil and gas as well as to unconventional hydrocarbon resources such as gas hydrates.

Despite a common view on plentiful of hydrocarbon resources in the Arctic there are ongoing debates on the potential of this region as a future energy supply base. A driving force for such discussions is multiple: geopolitics, environmental concern, assessment and delineation of Arctic resources, technology available for their successful development and the market demand for energy supply.

Russian slice is recognized to be the largest among oil and gas resources owned by Arctic nations. However, scarce information and available geological data create uncertainty regarding a future role of Russian Arctic as main base of energy supply in the second part of the XXI century.

A further uncertainty is the pace at which production from northern areas including arctic offshore, will be brought onstream - either because of national policy, infrastructure development or investment by the state and the oil companies. These areas embrace those where development have already been started (Offshore Sakhalin, northern Timan Pechora and Northern Caspian) and those awaiting future involvement, like Barents and Pechora seas, East Siberia, Yamal, Kara Sea and Kamchatka.

Offhore production levels are likely to be very important to Russia in mid and long terms, especially as most (if not all) of production will go for export and, in the process, open doors to new markets. In this way offshore production will introduce a new and very significant component to Russia's export strategy. However, active involvement of the Russian Arctic resources in the global energy supply process needs a detailed analysis and clear understanding of the market potential for the Russian gas and oil (required volumes, time frame, transportations routes) and requires close attention of the government to the most important issues that should be in place, like national standards and guidelines for Arctic resources development, stable, transparent and predictable law as a necessary precondition for massive investments in exploration and production and, not least, active involvement of foreign companies into development of the Arctic resources that could bring along with investments an indispensible competence and experience, available technology and HSE principles.

Development of oil and gas field in the arctic seas located few hundreds miles from shoreline is according to experts' opinion the most challenging project in the world. Without international cooperation, coordination of all activities and use of modern and proven technologies for production of hydrocarbons, their transport, efficient safety and environmental protection tools realization of such project would be questionable.


Russian continental shelf constitutes 22% of the World Ocean shelf and amounts to 6.2 million km2 (among them 4.2 million km2 within the economic zone). Arctic Ocean accumulates more than 50% of sediments coming to the World Ocean, which explain intensive sedimentation processes in this region. It explains high potential of the Arctic shelf in general and the Russian Arctic shelf, in particular.

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