GAZPROM is working with a former builder of Russian nuclear submarines to develop a subsea drilling system capable of drilling beneath the pack ice of Russia’s Arctic.
The Russian gas giant intends to build a fleet of the self-propelled seafloor drilling rigs and claims that it is feasible.
If the initiative is successful, this could be a world-beater. Concepts were developed a decade or so ago in the UK (Energy columnist Dick Winchester was closely involved) and in Italy, though neither made it off the drawing board.
Gazprom’s partner is Tsentralnoye Konstruktorskoye Byuro, or Lazurit CBD, which is a past master of submarine technologies. The Russian system envisages use of subsea drilling systems each comprising a submarine drillship (SDS) and a bottom template (BT) for operation at depths of 60-400m. Wells would be cluster drilled in sets of four to eight using the templates and subsea completion systems.
Gazprom says development of a pilot subsea drilling system will take five to seven years from the start of engineering design and that it should be commercially viable two to three years thereafter.
In other words, Gazprom is unlikely to be able to drill subsea for the best part of 10 years.