The West Alpha rig owned by Karmorneftegaz, a JV by Russian and US oil giants Rosneft and ExxonMobil, has launched exploratory drilling of Universitetskaya-1, Russia’s northernmost well.
“The start of exploratory drilling in the Kara Sea is the most important event of the year for the global oil and gas industry. As a result of this work we are planning to discover a new Kara Sea oil province. Developing of the Arctic offshore will have a strong positive effect on the Russian economy as a whole,” Igor Sechin, the head of Rosneft, was quoted by the company’s official website.
According to the press release, the West Alpha rig was provided by the Norwegian company North Atlantic Drilling which signed long-term agreements with Rosneft for the offshore drilling on 30 July 2014. West Alpha was transported via the Barents, Pechora and Kara Seas and installed on the drilling site of the East Prinovozemelskiy-1 Licence Area in the Kara Sea. The drilling rig made the way of over 1900 nautical miles to reach its destination. The rig is 30,700 tons in deadweight, 70 m long, 66 m wide, the derrick towers 108.5 meters over the main deck.
“The rig is held on the drilling site by an 8-anchor positioning system, which provides advanced stability for the rig. Most of the platform is outside the reach of waves. The maximum drilling depth of West Alpha is 7 km. The drilling will continue for two months,” the corporation’s statement goes on.
The rig is said to be equipped with an innovative system for ice monitoring and icebergs detection, including infrared cameras and modern onboard radars, also getting satellite and air monitoring data.
“To make sure West Alpha can operate safely in severe ice conditions, Rosneft and ExxonMobil developed a unique iceberg collision prevention plan. It even includes applying physical action to the ice. Should experts suspect a hummock or floe can damage the rig, special support vessels will tow it away to a safe distance. If physical action is impossible, the system will isolate the well in a way that is harmless for the environment, and the rig will transfer to a safer location. The rig is equipped with two groups of blowout preventers and an enhanced subsea shut-in device,” reads the press release.
Author: Mikhail Vesely