One of the most important areas of Russia’s state policy is the development of its Arctic zone. The Arctic holds large oil and gas, coal, gold and rare metals reserves. Governor of the Arkhangelsk Region Igor Orlov has shared with Invest Foresight his views on the prospects that the Strategy for the Development of the Arctic Zone opens up.
– The State Program ‘Social and Economic Development of the Arctic Zone of the Russian Federation’ states that by 2030, the Arkhangelsk Region will become one of the most advanced economic and technology centers in Russia. What resources are you planning to use to achieve such results?
Even now, the Arkhangelsk Region is considered one of the leading industrial areas in the Russian North, primarily due to the high level of the main branches of the local economy such as transport, shipbuilding and mechanical engineering, the timber industry, and mining. The region attracts both public and private investment. In 2016, investment in the regional economy exceeded RUR 60 bln ($912 mio). In 2017, industrial production here grew more than 22%. In addition, there are many new interesting projects, such as the construction of a methanol plant. From here, methanol can be delivered to any place in the world by sea, quickly and inexpensively. There are also plans to develop the Pavlovskoye deposit on the island of Novaya Zemlya. A mining facility is being established there for the extraction and processing of lead and zinc ore with a capacity of 3.5 mio tons per year. This project has already been prepared, pending approval at various levels, and construction will begin in 2020. There are other interesting proposals to build tidal power plants and wind generators.
– Implementing these new projects will require human resources and modern technology. Therefore, Russia plans to open 15 world-class research and education centers by 2024. One of them will be based in Pomorye (the Russian Arctic zone) and supported by the Russian Academy of Sciences. What will the center do?
The main objective is to develop and introduce new unique materials and technology for the Arctic where the harsh weather and working conditions require alloys, polymers and fabrics with specific thermophysical properties, as well as covering solutions that prevent freezing and corrosion. Plans call for using these developments in navigation, polar aviation, pharmaceuticals, as well as in production of clothes and household items. The main role in the establishment of a research and educational center belongs to the Northern (Arctic) Federal University. All developments will be made there. In addition, the project will be joined by the Kurchatov Institute, representatives of the Bauman Moscow State Technical University, the National Research Nuclear University MEPhI, the Moscow Aviation Institute, and the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology.
– Mineral prospecting is currently active on the Arctic shelf. Is the Arkhangelsk Region also taking part in exploring northern oil and gas fields?
The Arctic shelf has huge reserves of hydrocarbons that can cover a significant part of the country’s energy needs. Not only Russia, but also Norway, Finland, the U.S. and Canada are interested in their exploration. According to geological surveys, 80% of mineral resources are still yet to be discovered. Our enterprises produce mining and transporting equipment and also build exploration and production platforms. One of them, the Prirazlomnaya ice-resistant stationary platform, is the only platform that is engaged in oil production on the Russian Arctic shelf. In 2017, the five millionth ton of oil was produced there. The current capacity of the platform is over 3,000 cubic meters of oil per day. The platform is designed for operating in the most extreme weather conditions. It meets all safety requirements and can bear maximum load. The Sevmash enterprise made the MOSS CS-50 semi-submersible drilling rig whose deck can accommodate any equipment. The Arkticheskaya jack-up drilling rig, manufactured in Severodvinsk, was put into operation in 2012. It can operate at a depth of up to 100 meters and at a temperature of -30° С (-22 F). The rig can drill wells of up to 6,500 meters in depth. In addition, regional enterprises assemble vessels that deliver drilling rigs and other equipment to the platforms.
– The active exploration of the northern territories can seriously harm the unique nature of the Arctic. What is the regional facilities and government’s attitude towards environmental preservation?
All projects undergo an environmental impact assessment, and the regional government makes sure that these requirements are met. The region’s main natural resource is its forests. We rank second in the Northwestern Federal District in terms of timber resources. In 2017, the region took second place in Russia in terms of reforestation efforts, having planted over 65,000 hectares of trees. This was made possible due to the opening of a seed center in the Ustyansky County. The center grows up to 9 million cedar, fir and pine seedlings per year.
By Christina Firsova