* Greenpeace activists staged protests at offshore site
* Project has been hit by several delays
MOSCOW Oct 3 Gazprom has announced
that it is on track to begin oil production this year at the
Prirazlomnoye Arctic oil project that has ignited protests from
environmental groups over the dangers of possible oil spills.
"As was envisaged, production is expected to start by the
year-end," Gazprom Neft Shelf, a unit of Gazprom, said in an
email to the first public remarks by the company since
Greenpeace activists tried to scale the production platform at
Russia's first Arctic offshore oil project last month.
On Wednesday Russia charged Greenpeace activists with piracy
for their demonstration against Arctic oil drilling, which the
Kremlin sees as a key to Russia's future prosperity.
Arctic offshore oil and gas development is crucial for
Russia, which relies on hydrocarbon sales for more than half its
budget revenue. The Ministry of Natural Resources puts the
offshore oil resources at 100 billion tonnes, which would be
enough to satisfy global demand for 25 years at current
State-controlled Rosneft, Russia's top oil
producer, has agreements with ExxonMobil, Eni
and Statoil to tap the Arctic deposits. But those
project are unlikely to eke out any oil and gas before the
Gazprom has cited "technical reasons" for several delays to
the start of production at Prirazlomnoye, which is designed to
produce heavy, sour oil. Media reports have estimated total
investment in the field, discovered towards the end of the
Soviet Union, at between $4 billion and $5 billion.
Prirazlomnoye has estimated reserves of 526 million barrels
of oil and Gazprom expects to reach peak production of 120,000
barrels per day in seven to eight years.
Concerns over the safety of offshore oil have intensified
after BP's Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded in 2010,
killing 11 workers and spewing millions barrels of oil into the
Mexican Gulf, though Gazprom said on Thursday that it is able to
tackle any possible oil spills at Prirazlomnoye.