Russia Hits a Dry Spell in Oil Exploration: No New Large Fields Discovered in 2023

Written by Henrik Rothen

Apr.12 - 2024 8:31 PM CET

Russia's quest for new oil reserves yields minimal success, signaling potential challenges for the nation's energy sector.

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2023 has marked a notably unsuccessful year in Russia's ongoing search for significant new oil fields, as the nation grapples with diminishing existing reserves.

According to Vedomosti, which cites data from Rosnedra, the Russian Federal Subsoil Resources Management Agency, not a single new large oil field was identified among the newly discovered reserves.

While the total number of fields registered increased, the discoveries were predominantly minor. The largest find was the R.U. Maganov oil and gas condensate field in the Caspian Sea, notable primarily for its gas reserves, while oil discoveries lagged significantly.

Small Finds in a Big Industry

The details paint a stark picture of the challenge at hand. Most of the new fields discovered were classified as either "small" or "very small."

For instance, the Burskoye field in the Irkutsk region, though the richest in new oil barrels, holds just 8.7 million tons—a quantity that Russia's oil industry can deplete in under a week at current production rates.

Other fields like the V.P. Orlov and Taltymskoye similarly represent just a few days of national output.

A Drop in the Ocean

In total, Russia's oil companies have reported the discovery of 565 million tons of oil—the lowest in six years and primarily due to additional exploration at existing sites rather than fresh, significant finds.

The newly discovered fields add up to a mere 43 million tons, equating to roughly one month of Russia's current production levels.

Drilling Deeper, Not Wider

The pattern of diminishing returns extends beyond new discoveries. As noted by Mikhail Krutikhin, a partner at RusEnergy, last year's record drilling activities of 28.1 thousand kilometers predominantly targeted older, already-depleted fields in a bid to extract the remaining accessible oil.

"In Yugra, Russia's leading oil zone, only two tiny fields were commissioned last year," Krutikhin elaborated, underscoring the severity of the situation.

He further highlighted the sobering forecast shared at an industry conference in Khanty-Mansiysk: Russia may have only 9 to 17 years left before its profitable oil reserves are exhausted.

The Clock is Ticking for Russian Oil

The implications of these findings are profound. With nearly all of Russia’s exploitable oil reserves already in operation and new discoveries dwindling, the industry faces a future where the cost of extraction could surpass the selling price of oil.

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