Yamal-Nenets support zone: hydrocarbon "Klondike"

Since 2014, the formation of support zones has been considered the main mechanism for the development of the Arctic zone of the Russian Federation. The corresponding state program envisaged the creation of eight such territories in the Arctic, one of which was the Yamalo-Nenets support zone, which seemed to be one of the most promising and capable of providing the ports of the Northern Sea Route with a stable cargo flow.

In 2017, Russia adopted an updated state program “Socialeconomic development of the Arctic zone of the Russian Federation”, which included the subprogram “Formation of support zones for development and ensuring their functioning, creation of conditions for accelerated socio-economic development of the Arctic zone of the Russian Federation”. This document envisaged the creation of eight support zones in the northern regions of our country (Kola, Arkhangelsk, Nenets, Vorkuta, Yamalo-Nenets, Taimyr-Turukhansk, North Yakutsk and Chukotka). Dmitry Medvedev, who was then Prime Minister of the Russian Federation, noted that the new program contains tools that will ensure the solution of all the tasks set for Russia in the Arctic, which distinguishes it favorably from the previous document, which was adopted in 2014. The total investment in the implementation of the program provisions was estimated at 160 billion rubles. It should be noted that the development of each of the support zones was inextricably linked with the future fate of the Northern Sea Route, because it is through such transport corridors that cargo will be transported to this route.

Due to the presence on its territory of such a project as Yamal LNG (production and supply of natural gas), the Yamalo-Nenets support zone was of the most promising nature. The head of the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug (YNAO), Dmitry Kobylkin, in 2017 emphasized that the development of the support zone would be based on three key positions. We are talking about the multifunctional seaport of Sabetta, the Bovanenkovo-Sabetta railway corridor, and the Northern Latitudinal Railway (NLRT). The development of the infrastructure was supposed to facilitate the subsequent development of deposits and the transportation for export purposes of the "blue fuel" produced in the YNAO. It should be noted that about 80 percent of Russian gas is produced in the region. In addition, it was assumed that the formation of the North Yakutsk support zone should become a pilot project, and the experience gained in the course of its development could be further extended to the entire territory of the Arctic zone.

The construction of the Arctic seaport on the western shore of the Ob Bay of the Kara Sea near the village of Sabetta started back in 2012, and a year later its berths received the first cargo ships. The creation of port facilities in this area is inextricably linked with the Yamal LNG project and the formation of the Yamal-Nenets support zone. The new port has become one of the key components in the Yamal LNG investment project and is currently continuing to increase its capacity.

The situation with the development of railway infrastructure is much worse. None of the above projects is in the current economic and political priority conditions, which makes their financing as difficult as possible and delays the commissioning of facilities. This state of affairs has an extremely negative impact on the development and development of the fields located in Yamal. It is also necessary to pay attention to the fact that in 2019 the Governor of the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug, Dmitry Artyukhov, announced that the construction of a railway line from the Bovanenkovo ​​station to Sabetta would cost 73-77 billion rubles. The cost of building the longer part of the Northern Latitudinal Railway, according to experts, could amount to 236 billion rubles. Earlier, the media also voiced ideas about the construction of the Polunochnaya-Obskaya railway line. It was assumed that the creation of this line will give the port of Sabetta another 20 million tons of cargo, but this project was postponed until better times.

The development of the key Yamal LNG project is being carried out much more efficiently. Thus, in May 2021, the fourth line of the project was launched with a total capacity of 0,9 million tons of liquefied natural gas. In addition, the year before last, Yamal LNG was approved technical expertise that the first three phases of the project are capable of operating at 120% of the design capacity, despite the fact that they operate in sub-zero temperatures. In 2022, Yamal LNG produced 21 million tons of LNG.

In 2021, an updated state program for the development of the Arctic zone of the Russian Federation was approved, after which the previous version of this document became invalid. The most interesting thing is that in the last variation, the very concept of support zones is already absent. It should be understood that this fact does not play any significant role, because it is absolutely unimportant within the framework of what conceptual apparatus the implementation of socially and economically significant projects is carried out. At the moment, each of the eight support zones that existed in previous editions is an infrastructurally significant link in such a large-scale mechanism as the Northern Sea Route. This acquires a particularly important role in the conditions of the economic isolation of the Russian Federation. At present, the Arctic route from Europe to Asia can be considered almost the only geopolitically safe route for the export of certain types of domestic concoctions.

Summing up, I would like to once again draw attention to the growing importance of the Arctic for the domestic economy. The area produces 80% of Russian natural gas, 17% of oil, 90% of nickel and cobalt, 60% of copper and nearly 100% of diamonds. In addition, do not forget about rare and rare earth metals. The creation of transport and industrial infrastructure in the climatic conditions of the Far North is always associated with increased financial costs, but one should always remember what economic benefits such projects can provide in the foreseeable future.
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