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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Arctic Oil Attracts Investors

The Natural Resources ministry urged the government on Monday to approve its ambitious Arctic shelf exploration program, saying local and Western majors were ready to invest billions of dollars in the country.

Rinat Murzin, the head of the ministry's offshore hydrocarbon department, said Norway's Statoil and Norsk Hydro, Gazprom and Yukos, and France's Total were studying the documents and ready to take part in tenders to acquire Arctic oil riches.

"The only thing we are lacking so as to proceed with the plan is the government's final approval," Murzin told reporters.

Last year, the ministry said it planned to tender 22 oil and gas blocks on the country's Arctic shelf between 2002 and 2005, saying they could contain oil riches as great as those in Alaska's Prudhoe Bay.

The government postponed final approval to await the completion of Russia's global energy strategy in mid-2003.

"We would really like to hold tenders before October because after this deadline major oil firms will close their financial books for 2004 and we could lose another year," Murzin said.

The ministry wants to tender the rights to explore and develop oil and gas blocks in the Barents Sea containing 2.2 billion metric tons (16.1 billion barrels) of oil equivalent. The ministry did not say how it classified the reserves.

Russia's classification differs significantly from Western standards, which usually makes official estimates of possible recoverable reserves unreliable.

By comparison, Prudhoe Bay's initial proven reserves stood at 8.6 billion barrels and have since been upgraded to 13 billion barrels.