Barents Sea Geology, Petroleum Resources and Commercial Potential
Geologically, the Barents Sea is a complex mosaic of basins and platforms. It underwent intracontinental sedimentation from about 240 million years ago to the early Cenozoic, about 60 million years ago, after which it bordered the developing Atlantic and Arctic oceans. Geophysical investigations began during the 1970s, and the first offshore drilling occurred in the early 1980s. In Norwegian waters, drilling has proven 260-300 billion cubic meters of gas, with minor oil. Most of the reserves are contained in Jurassic sandstones. Exploration problems include the predominance of gas over oil and leakage of hydrocarbons from traps in recent geological time; both are connected with the intense erosion of the Barents Shelf that took place during the Cenozoic. Exploration efforts currently focus on new targets in areas such as the Finnmark Platform, the Nordkapp Basin, the Western Margin, and the area between 74 30 N and Spitsbergen. Oil accumulations have been discovered in Russian waters offshore from the Timan-Pechora Basin. However, major sedimentary basins west of Novaya Zemlya have yielded the most significant results. The largest finds include the Stokmanovskaya and Ludlovskaya supergiant gas fields. Stokmanovskaya alone has gas reserves in the order of 2500 billion cubic meters. Seismic surveys have documented a large inventory of untested structures, and further resources are probably present in the disputed area between Norwegian and Russian waters. Options for commercial development of both Norwegian and Russian discoveries are currently being evaluated. These include the possible export of liquefied natural gas from the Norwegian Snohvit Field to the European market. A consortium has carried out feasibility studies on the Russian Stokmanovskaya Field, and gas export solutions are being evaluated. In general, economic exploitation is hindered by the low price of natural gas, the distance to potential markets, difficult logistics, restricted drilling seasons and environmental concerns.
Key words: Arctic Ocean, Barents Sea, hydrocarbon potential, natural gas, Russia, Norway