* Russia detained Greenpeace activists over protests against
Arctic oil production
* The project is almost decade behind its initial schedule
* Production plateau seen at 120,000 barrels per day
By Katya Golubkova and Vladimir Soldatkin
MOSCOW, Dec 20 Russia's first Arctic offshore
field Prirazlomnoye, where Greenpeace activists were arrested in
September after a high seas clash with Russian authorities, has
started production of oil, energy company Gazprom said
The project is almost a decade behind its initial schedule
and is one of the most controversial energy projects, seen as
dangerous for the environment by the greens, who say that the
drilling and storage platform is three decades old.
"We became the pioneers of Russia's Arctic development,"
Gazprom's Chief Executive Officer Alexei Miller said in a
President Vladimir Putin has said Russia's Arctic offshore
riches are of a strategic importance for the country, which now
is pumping an average of 10.6 million barrels of oil per day
(bpd), close to its current capacity.
However, start of production had long been delayed due to
various challenges, including ageing equipment and a change in
shareholders structure. Difficulties obtaining official
clearances and technical problems also hampered the project.
Russia, the world's second-biggest oil exporter, is vying
with Canada, Denmark, Norway and the United States for control
of the oil, gas and precious metals that would become more
accessible if global warming shrinks the Arctic ice cap.
Greenpeace has said that oil production in the pristine
region risks spills similar to the Mexican Gulf disaster at BP's
platform in 2010, saying that some of Prirazlomnaya
platform's parts were used at another offshore project some 30
The activists issued a statement on Friday, saying, the
launch of production is "a dark day for the Arctic".
"Gazprom is the first company on Earth to pump oil from
beneath icy Arctic waters and yet its safety record on land is
appalling. It is impossible to trust them to drill safely in one
of the most fragile and beautiful regions on Earth," Greenpeace
said in a statement.
Gazprom has said it has taken all necessary measures to
prevent any incidents.
Russia detained 30 Greenpeace activists protesting against
Arctic drilling at the Prirazlomnaya platform in September. The
protesters faced jail sentences of up to 7 years although Putin
later announced an amnesty, which covers the activists.
The Arctic region is seen as an important source of
potential growth for Russia, the world's largest oil producer,
in the next decade, with global oil majors including ExxonMobil
, Eni or Statoil clinching deals to
enter the Russian Arctic..
Production from these projects is not seen before late
Gazprom Neft had expected initial production at
Prirazlomnoye at 12,000 barrels per day in 2014 with a plateau
of 120,000 bpd in 2021.
Oil will be extracted from the deposit, where winter
temperatures often plunge below minus 50 degrees Celsius (minus
58 Fahrenheit), and then pumped to tankers bound for Europe.
Gazprom Neft sees overall investments into the project at
around 200 billion roubles ($6 billion), of which half had
already been spent with the bulk accounting for a special