Russian gas monopoly Gazprom has moved forward with a plan to spud two exploration wells on the Ledovy block in the Barents Sea in 2022 and 2023, with a semi-submersible drilling unit from Sakhalin Island arriving earlier to the northern port of Murmansk.

According to environmental impact assessment studies made public by the company’s design and engineering subsidiary, Krasnoyarskgazpom Neftegazproyekt, both wells will target traditional sandstone Jurassic formations to the depth of about 2200 metres.

Are you missing out on ACCELERATE?
Gain valuable insight into the global oil and gas industry's energy transition from ACCELERATE, the free weekly newsletter from Upstream and Recharge.

With US and European sanctions against Russia preventing many international contractors from sending their rigs for deep-water drilling, Gazprom has opted to bring one of two semisubs it directly owns — Severnoye Siyaniye — to perform the job.

Water depths at the drilling locations are 245 metres and 268 metres, exceeding the maximum 152-metre sea depth caught by the sanctions that were introduced in 2014 in response to Russian annexation of the Crimea peninsula from Ukraine.

According to the studies, Severnoye Siyaniye is expected to sail to the location of exploration well #3 — about 800 kilometres from Murmansk and 220 kilometres south of Novaya Zemlya archipelago — in June next year.

Actual drilling is expected to begin in July and may take about 87 days, suggesting the rig will return to Murmansk in October. Its next assignment — well #4 — is due to start in June 2023, once again targeting the ice-free period.

The drilling job will also be supported by five vessels, two of which will be supplied by a Norwegian operator, and three others, including an icebreaker, by Russian companies.

The Ledovy block lies close to the company’s key Shtokman asset in the Barents Sea, with estimated recoverable reserves of about 4 trillion cubic metres of natural gas.

Based on the two wildcats spud during the 1990s, Gazprom estimates the block is likely to contain recoverable reserves of about 420 billion cubic metres of gas and some condensate.

According to earlier disclosures of the company’s exploration subsidiary Gazprom Nedra, the Ludlovsky block is a next exploration target after the Ledovy tract as this also lies close to the Shtokman field.

Once Gazprom Nedra is successful in confirming additional gas reserves of the two blocks, Gazprom is expected to come back to its long-discussed plan of building a liquefied natural gas plant on the Russian Barents shore to be fed with gas from these three assets.