The Russian government and oil giant British Petroleum have reached a deal regarding the exploration of the Arctic for offshore drilling ventures. BP and other oil companies shifted their interests elsewhere when the Gulf of Mexico oil spill caused the U.S. to become reluctant about future offshore drilling prospects in the Gulf and other areas. BP became interested in Russia after the government expressed interest in focusing oil drilling efforts offshore, specifically the Arctic. Russia's onshore oil reserves have been dwindling for quite some time and drilling in the Arctic could have major payoffs for both parties. Other oil companies are also hoping to jump on board and work out similar agreements with Russia.
Although several countries have land bordering the Arctic Circle, Russia is the most interested in drilling in the area. Both Canada and the U.S. have expressed reluctance due to environmental and safety concerns, especially since climate conditions in the Arctic pose a large hazard.
Russia's oil industry has suffered heavily from the dwindling oil reserves in Siberia and without a new drilling venture, the industry could see a reduction in over a million barrels in 25 years. The country has expressed concern, stating that offshore drilling is the only choice and utilizing foreign oil companies could prove to be beneficial for both parties involved.
Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has confirmed Russia's need to drill in the Arctic, especially since oil production accounts for about 60 percent of Russian exports. He also emphasized that BP is the best company to work with and that they have learned their lesson with the Gulf oil spill last year.
Russia has also mentioned that drilling would most likely happen in the Kara Sea, an area used as a dumping ground for Russia's nuclear waste, but that drilling would not interact with the radioactive material. The Kara Sea is located just north of Siberia and past testing has shown notable amounts of both petroleum and natural gas deposits. Some problems may stand in the way of maximum oil production from the Kara Sea, including the fact that the area is marked by extremely cold temperatures from the lack of warm currents from the Atlantic Ocean. In fact, the sea is frozen over for nine months out of the year. Canada and the United States have cited frozen seas in the Arctic is a major safety concern and that these large ice patches are habitats for polar bears and other fragile wildlife populations.
The details of Russia and BP's agreement are expected to be released in the near future, including start dates. For now, other oil companies are working hard to get on board and get past the restrictions in the U.S.'s offshore drilling prospects by dropping them entirely.