Russian gas giant Gazprom’s exploration subsidiary Gazprom Nedra has reported success with two wells following the end of this year’s drilling campaign in the Kara Sea and Barents Sea.

The company said both wells were drilled by the Gazprom-owned semi-submersible drilling rig Severnoye Siyaniye (Polar Lights), which was mobilised in 2021 from the Kirinsky offshore block, near Sakhalin Island in Russia’s far east, to Murmansk in the Russian Arctic.

Gazprom Nedra did not disclose the names of the blocks but they are understood to be the Leningradsky block in the Kara Sea and the Ledovy block in the Barents Sea, based on earlier published environmental impact studies.

Gazprom Nedra had not responded to Upstream’s request to confirm the names of the blocks by the time of publishing.

The well understood to have been in the Leningradsky block was drilled with the aim of increasing the estimate of confirmed gas and condensate reserves at the block, where hydrocarbons were initially discovered in 1992 and where Gazprom restarted exploration drilling in 2017.

Leningradsky’s recoverable reserves were reported at about 1.9 trillion cubic metres of natural gas before the recently completed well.

Gazprom Nedra said in its corporate journal that the Kara Sea well was spudded between July and September, with the rig then moving to the Barents Sea for its second assignment.

The company said this was the first time it managed to drill two wells in the same season in the Russian Arctic. Operators have traditionally been able to drill just one well during the area’s short ice-free summer period.

Gazprom Nedra said that “commercial flows of a mixture of gas and condensate” were observed at both wells but did not disclose the estimated flow rates during tests.

Last year, the company revealed a plan for two exploration wells on the Ledovy block, which lies close to Gazprom’s Shtokman asset in the Barents Sea.

Shtokman boasts estimated recoverable reserves of about 4 Tcm of gas, but its development was put on hold indefinitely in 2012.

A second well at Ledovy has been planned for the ice-free summer season of 2023, using the same semisub.

Based on two wells drilled on the Ledovy block in the 1990s, Gazprom has estimated the asset holds recoverable reserves of about 420 billion cubic metres of gas and some condensate.

Kara Sea revisited

Gazprom Nedra is also planning to attempt to drill another well on the Rusanovsky block in the Kara Sea.

According to Yamal-Nenets public hearing announcements, the Rusanovsky-5 well was scheduled for this year’s summer season using the Russian-owned jack-up drilling rig Arcticheskaya.

However, the jack-up has remained moored in Kola Bay near Murmansk since October 2021 after returning from the Kara Sea.

A public announcement published at the end of November said the Arcticheskaya may mobilise to the Rusanovsky block in July 2023.

International sanctions introduced in 2014 in response to Russia’s annexation of the Crimea Peninsula have prevented Gazprom and other Russian operators in the Arctic from hiring Western semisubs for assignments in water depths of more than 152 metres.

Operators have responded to the restrictions by contracting Chinese-owned semisubs and jack-ups for Arctic exploration.

The sanctions were expanded significantly after the invasion of Ukraine in February and are now targeting the supply of Western high-tech equipment and spare parts to Russia’s energy industry.