Belarus, Ukraine begin joint geological surveys for oil and gas

Aug. 21, 2013 at 3:12 PM
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MINSK, Belarus, Aug. 21 (UPI) -- The USSR collapse in 1991, left many post-Soviet states, including Belarus and Ukraine, bereft of energy supplies.

Accordingly, energy poor Belarus and Ukraine have begun joint oil and natural gas prospecting.

According to Belarus Oil and Gas at the Scientific and Production Center for Geology State Enterprise chief geologist Iaroslav Gribik, the survey is part of the Belarusian-Ukrainian Regional International Seismic Line "Georift 13" project, whose project participants will study the geological framework of Belarus and Ukraine along Poltava-Chernihiv-Kalinkovichi-Kopyl lines. Gribnik told reporters, "The survey includes the territories where major Belarusian and Ukrainian oil and gas deposits are concentrated. They are the Pripiiat flexure and the Dnieper-Donetsk depression," Belorusskoe Telegrafnoe Agenstvo news agency reported on Wednesday.

Gribnik added that the surveyed area is roughly 250 square miles on the territory of Belarus and the remaining 130 miles in Ukraine.

Motivating both nations is the fact while, largely lacking indigenous energy reserves, both countries are major transit routes for Russian exports of oil and natural gas westwards to European markets, and both have clashed with Moscow over pricing and transit issues>

The U.S. government's Energy Information Agency notes that, "Ukraine was the seventh-largest energy consumer in Europe and Eurasia in 2010. More than half of the country's primary energy supply comes from its uranium and coal resources, although natural gas also plays an important role in its energy mix."

Ukraine's geographic position and proximity to the Russian Federation are the reason that it is important for Russia a natural gas transit country to its European customers, which include Austria, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Moldova, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, and Turkey. Over the past decade, disputes between Russia and Ukraine over natural gas supplies, prices, and debts have resulted in interruptions to Russia's natural gas exports through Ukraine.

Belarus is equally dependent on the Russian Federation for fuel, as every three months Belarus receives 5.75 million tons of Russian oil.

Seeking any and all energy options, Belarus is considering building its first nuclear power plant if investors can be found. According to Belarusian Deputy Energy Minister Mikhail Mikhadyuk, "If there is a reliable investor, who is ready to build another nuclear power plant in Belarus, then we are ready to discuss these proposals. However, it should take into account the availability of a sufficient market to sell electricity and the fact that once again all the international procedures the first nuclear power plant has gone through will have to be carried out."

The Belarus interest in constructing its first nuclear power plant has alarmed its neighbors. Lithuanian Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevicius recently demanded that Belarus stop work on its proposed NPP until it prove that the project complies with international treaties and nuclear safety standards, as the NPP near the border town of Ostrovets would be a mere 25 miles from the Lithuanian capital Vilnius.

Butkevicius said, "We have many concerns about safety and information we've asked for hasn't been provided. We urge Belarus to refrain from unilateral actions, we await their response and expect them to abide by international treaties they've signed."

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