April 5 (UPI) -- The drilling of a well in the northernmost oil and gas basin in Russian territory by oil company Rosneft is a sign of things to come, Russia's president said.
Russian oil company Rosneft started drilling its Tsentralno-Olginskaya-1 well on the far northern reaches of the Arctic shelf. In a video link to operators there, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Rosneft's move north marked the preliminary steps toward unlocking the vast quantities of oil and gas.
"This is just the first well," he said. "There is much more work ahead."
The well was tapped in the Laptev Sea using an onshore facility drilling horizontally. The Russian oil company estimates the total area holds as much as 69 billion barrels of oil equivalent.
Rosneft said drilling in this method is complex, but investments in the region are expected to grow through 2021 to facilitate further development. Last week, Russian Minister of Natural Resources Sergei Donskoi said that, while the market was prohibitive of major programs, the Arctic region was still a strategic development opportunity.
A subsidiary of Russian oil company Gazprom Neft reached a milestone last year with the production of its 10 millionth barrel of oil at the Prirazlomnoye field in the Arctic north.
Rosneft President Igor Sechin said more drilling is planned next year in the Arctic reaches of the Barents Sea "and [we] will continue our work in the eastern Arctic."
Rosneft holds about two dozen license areas on the Arctic shelf. The company points to industry experts who suggest the region could account for as much as 30 percent of Russia's total oil production by 2050.