Russia is washed by 13 inland and open seas, with the area of the shelf and continental slope totaling 6.2 million square kilometers. Twenty major oil and gas provinces and basins have been discovered on the Russian shelf, 10 of which have proved oil and gas reserves (the largest Arctic sedimentary basins are the East Barents, South Kara, Laptev, East Siberian and Chukchi basins).
The initial recoverable resources of the Russian shelf are reported to reach 100 billion tons of oil equivalent, including 13 billion tons of oil and 87 trillion cubic meters of gas, for 22 percent-27 percent of the World Ocean’s total offshore hydrocarbon resources. It is noteworthy that around 75 percent of Russia’s total offshore resources are located in Arctic regions with severe weather conditions and poorly developed infrastructure. In 2008, the U.S. Geological Survey completed an assessment of undiscovered conventional oil and gas resources in all areas north of the Arctic Circle. According to this study, these are predominantly natural gas resources (over 75 percent). Another study, by Wood Mackenzie and Fugro-Robertson, dedicated to the assessment of the Arctic’s hydrocarbon potential in 2009, found that gas resources predominate over oil in much of the Arctic basin. Gas accounts for 85 percent of the Arctic’s discovered resources and 74 percent of its exploration potential. Consequently, estimates regarding future oil-production levels may be based on the assumption that Russia’s Arctic regions contain recoverable oil reserves of 2 billion-4 billion tons.
Russia major companies seek to form joint ventures to explore and develop the country’s unevenly explored Arctic shelf. The majority of localized resources (around 94 percent of the total) have been found in the western part, while the hydrocarbon potential of the eastern part, along the slope and in the deep Arctic basin, is mostly regarded as inferred or contingent.
The following fields were discovered as a result of exploration drilling and prepared for development: Shtokman and Murmanskoye (the Barent Sea); Prirazlomnoye, Medynskoye-more and Dolginskoye (the Pechora Sea); Kamennomysskoye and North Kamennomysskoye (the Kara Sea, Ob-Tazov Bay).
The petroleum potential of the Black Sea and Azov Sea should not be underestimated either. Agreements for joint offshore development signed in 2010 clearly demonstrate that both domestic and international companies are interested in cooperating in this area. According to estimates by RosNIPItermneft, the Azov Sea’s hydrocarbon resources amount to 200 million tons of oil equivalent, while the undiscovered resources of the Tuapse Trough in the Russian Black Sea basin may range from 3 billion to 11.5 billion tons of oil equivalent.