Putin approved the construction of vessels for seismic surveys in terms of...

Putin approved the construction of vessels for seismic surveys in terms of sanctions

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Photo: Artyom Geodakyan/TASS

Vladimir Putin has approved the construction of two vessels for seismic survey at the Arctic shelf for RUB 15 billion due to the budget. But that may not be enough funds for the exploration, warn officials

RUB 15 billion for two vessels

“In the circumstances the sanctions regime of the Russian Federation as a whole is able to provide a fully performing volumes of seismic works 2D for the existing fleet and equipment in the period until 2018”, — said in a letter to Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Khloponin (in charge of matters concerning mining), sent on 12 July to President Vladimir Putin (RBC has a copy). In the segment of 3D seismic survey was “more critical” situation, he warns: the existing capacities allow to provide not more than 20% of the market volume. Moreover, the average age of ships is 28 years old, wear research vessels exceeds 80%.

Why 3D?

Seismic exploration is done by two methods – 2D and 3D. 2D uses the method of longitudinal reflected waves, and 3D multiwave seismic exploration volume, which gives a more complete picture of resources in the field until the structure of the well. Seismic survey 3D is “a key element of the complex of geological exploration on the continental shelf, allowing to localize the inferred resources and to ensure the production of necessary volume of exploration drilling,” says Khloponin.

As a result, over 2005-2015 was in Russia 3D seismic works were performed only on 70 thousand sq km, which is 1.2% of the territory of the Russian continental shelf. To perform the “required volume” of seismic 3D works Vice-Prime offers in 2019 to Commission at least two ships of the Arctic class “with the vehicle primarily by domestic navigation and seismic equipment.”

The preliminary cost of the construction of two such vessels Khloponin, now estimated at about RUB 15 billion and proposed to obtain financing for this project, redistributing funds from the program “the Reproduction of mineral resources” in 2017-2019 (her finances expenditures on exploration of all minerals in Russia). The next day after receiving the letter, July 13, Putin put a resolution “agree”.

Buy cheaper

The construction of a modern vessel for 3D seismic at a cost of approximately $200 million (12.5 billion rubles at the current exchange rate), says MSU Professor in the Department of seismometers and geoacoustics of Yuri Ampilov. Because of the crisis in the world uses 70% of these vessels, half of which are newly built. Each such ship could be bought for about $50 million, that is four times cheaper than building new, he points out. But due to international sanctions, Russia is now unable to buy such ships.

The representative Khloponin Natalia Platonova refused to comment on the letter, but said that in July, Deputy Prime Minister briefed the President about the need to build seismic vessels in Russia. “At the end of this meeting, was instructed to organise this work. We are talking about raising funds for the project, which are already included in the budgets of the respective departments,” she said. Putin’s press Secretary Dmitry Peskov did not respond to a request.

Design and construction of new vessels for seismic Khloponin proposes to entrust the consortium of companies that includes the United building Corporation (OSK, its capacity is planned to place orders), the state concern “okeanpribor” (which will provide the court of Russian technology) and “Rosgeologiya”, which owns more than 90% of the current Russian seismic fleet to ten vessels, of which only two are adapted for the execution of works in 3D.

The model of financing the construction is being decided now, confirmed to RBC General Director of Rosgeologia Roman Panov. But he did not specify how the necessary 15 billion rubles will be distributed between the budget and borrowed funds: Khloponin suggested part of the funds to attract extra-budgetary sources, including the use of financial instruments the FUND. “Funding for this project is based on principles of public-private partnerships. His sources include debt and equity Rosgeologia, and partly to trust funds of the Federal budget”, — said the representative of “Rosgeologia” Anton Sergeev.

The Ministry of natural resources recommended that the Committee consider funding of this project by reallocating funds from the budget for the reproduction of mineral resource base, as suggested Khloponin, said his spokesman Nikolai Gudkov. “Rosgeologiya” by decision of the government in 2015-2016 was appointed the sole executor of the state order on geological exploration. But from 2017, it is deprived of this right and such work will again be distributed by Rosnedra and the Ministry of environment to tender among the specialized companies. Budgetary financing of geological exploration in 2017 will be reduced by 5% compared to the current year (33 billion rubles), told journalists the Minister of natural resources Sergey Donskoy in September.

But the Agency has opposed the reallocation of budget funds. Activities of the state program “Reproduction of mineral resources” is not provided funds for the construction of ships, the letter said the Deputy head of the Department Sergey Aksenov, the Ministry of environment of 22 July (RBC has a copy). The redistribution of funds allocated for exploration, would lead to “the failure of targets and non-achievement of the objective of the subprogramme on sustainable provision of the economy with mineral resources and geological information on subsoil,” concluded Aksenov.

The Deputy head of the Committee proposes to build seismic court exclusively from extrabudgetary funds, including with the involvement of the owners of the license on the shelf, interested in attracting such courts. In Russia the right to extract oil on the Arctic shelf there are only two companies — “Rosneft” and “Gazprom”. Rosneft has its own shipyard “Zvezda” (it is financed by the main shareholder of the company “Rosneftegaz”), where already built a few ships, said its press Secretary Mikhail Leontyev. According to him, the company has its agreed investment in exploration and shipbuilding, it has not received any recommendations from the Committee regarding the participation in financing of two seismic vessels. The representative of “Gazprom” did not respond to a request.

A source in the Ministry confirmed that the construction of such vessels — non-core expenditure on exploration. Platonov said that the consortium should prepare a business model for the construction of two vessels, which will be discussed at the meeting until the end of October. A press-Secretary OSK Ilya Zhitomirsky said that the Corporation will not participate in the financing of the project — it is ready to build the court. The representative of “Okeanpribor” did not respond to a request RBC. The official representative of the RDIF declined to comment.

License encumbrance

Economic efficiency of construction and operation of seismic vessels is achieved by sustaining their orders companies operating offshore, said in a letter to Khloponin, that is, the same “Rosneft” and “Gazprom”. He recalled that similar conditions apply in countries with a developed system of development of offshore fields, such as USA, China and Norway. So he invited Putin to instruct the government when updating the licenses of these companies starting from 2019 to oblige them to purchase services for seismic exploration on the continental shelf of the Russian state-owned companies (state share — 50%) who have experience in offshore for at least five years, “under equal competitive conditions for the provision of homogeneous services and works”. Under these criteria are subject only to “Rosgeologiya” and “Zarubezhneft”. “Zarubezhneft” is the relevant subsidiary for service work offshore Arktikmorneftegazrazvedka, but its Arsenal is the drill only, not seismic fleet, according to the website of the company.

The inclusion in the licence of such conditions, according to the law “On protection of competition” is the action that leads or may lead to restriction of competition, wrote Feldman of the Federal Agency for subsoil use in the Ministry. In accordance with the advice of the security Council already provides priority on the attraction of the Russian contractors based on their competitiveness, ceteris paribus prices and quality of work, he recalls.

“Rosgeologiya” should not be considered a competent contractor to conduct a seismic survey on the Arctic shelf, RBC said Leontiev. In his opinion, the company acts as an intermediary for engaging the services of other contractors. He agrees with the officer of the Committee that such a clause in the license may lead to restriction of competition on the market. Rosneft is now the largest amount of seismic exploration on the Russian shelf, and the company wishes to retain the right to engage contractors acceptable to it for the price and quality of work, he added.

The representative of the FAS told RBC that the information about the initiatives of Khloponin in the field of seismic prospecting in Department did not arrive yet. The question of the potential limitation of competition, he did not comment.