Russia begins much-criticized Vostok Oil project in fragile arctic

By Rahul Vaimal, Associate Editor
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The Russia-based integrated energy company, Rosneft will soon begin its operations for its giant Vostok oil project in the Arctic, a project which has been highly criticized by environmentalists for its proximity to the sensitive polar region. 

While briefing the Russian President Vladimir Putin during a meeting in Moscow, Rosneft CEO Igor Sechin was quoted saying “It is with great pleasure that I inform you of the start of the practical implementation of the project.”

“The prospecting and exploration work are now underway, in accordance with our timetable,” the Rosneft CEO stated while adding that the design work for a 770-kilometer (480-mile) oil pipeline and a port had been completed.

Russia’s strategic plan for its mineral resources extends beyond 2035 as it banks on the growing global demand while acknowledging the fact that natural gas will partially replace oil and coal in the long run.

“Mineral resources will remain a competitive advantage of Russia’s economy, and will determine the place and role of the country in the world,” the country asserted.

Environmentalists within the country and across the globe have pushed the Russian government for years to stop granting licenses to exploit several Arctic deposits while the country outweighs its strategic goals over the environment.

One of the marquee projects for Russia in the Arctic, the Vostok project, extends the Russian oil giant’s efforts to the northern sea route which the firm intends to exploit to deliver to Europe and Asia.

Earlier in February, Mr. Sechin promised President Putin that the $111 billion project which will eventually have “two airports and 15 “industry towns”, would create a “new oil and gas province” on Siberia’s Taymyr Peninsula, the northernmost part of the Asian continent.

The project is also expected to employ more than 130,000 workers with construction alone requiring a workforce of 400,000.

With an estimated reserve of around five billion tonnes of oil, the project will eventually churn out 100 million tonnes of oil per year with 30 million tonnes to be sent from the Arctic along the so-called Northern Sea route connecting the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific between now and 2024.