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Why Alekperov asked Putin to bring back benefits for oil workers


The Ministry of Finance has opposed the introduction of tax incentives for high-viscosity and extra-viscosity oil fields before 2024. According to the officials, it will lead to a loss of budget revenues. Forpost decided to find out why this raw material, which in its commercial appearance looks like very thick black honey, is important for the national economy and why in the Komi Republic it is extracted from not a well, but a mine.

Alekperov's proposal

It is no secret that the pandemic has sharply reduced the revenues of the federal treasury, while its expenditure partly due to increased social obligations and the costs of fighting the coronavirus, on the contrary, has increased significantly. In order to eliminate the resulting deficit, the government proposed a number of measures, in particular, a law was passed last autumn to abolish the severance tax for extra-viscous oil production. According to the Ministry of Finance, this step will bring the state over 77 billion rubles.

The energy companies were unenthusiastic about this initiative. For instance, the head of Lukoil, Vagit Alekperov, declared that “the revision of taxation parameters in 2021 may lead to a decrease in investment activity.” After all, the fiscal burden will simply “eat up” all the potential profits. That is why, at a meeting with Vladimir Putin in the first decade of April, the head of one of the world’s largest specialized corporations asked to reconsider the decision.


“I am asking, Mr. President, for your order to work out the issue together with the Ministry of Finance and find a way to stimulate these projects. Because viscous oil is directly related to mono-villages and social infrastructure of a region as complex as Komi,” Alekperov said.

The President instructed the Government to present its views on this issue by May 1. However, the reaction was immediate - only a few days later Deputy Minister of Finance Alexey Sazanov spoke out sharply against “transferring viscous oil to a separate VAT group” (value-added tax) before 2024, as proposed by Lukoil.

Why is extra-viscous oil needed and how is it produced?

Oil was found in Komi at the beginning of the thirties of the last century. It was shallow - only 130-300 meters from the earth's surface. But it turned out to be impossible to produce it by traditional method - by drilling wells. The recovery factor of black gold ranged from 5-7%, which is very low even against the background of the current Russian indicators (about 30%), which many call “unacceptably low.”

The viscosity of oil in the Yaregskoye field was 10 thousand times higher than the classic grades, it almost did not flow. But the level of reserves exceeded 100 million tons, a huge amount, so Soviet science was tasked to find an effective technology to produce this valuable resource. Scientists suggested using the thermo-mine method of extraction. That is, to raise the raw material from the subsurface, people had to go down into the mine.

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“To date, of course, the technology has undergone many changes. And this is what it is. Wells are drilled over extra-viscous oil deposits and steam is injected into them. The reservoir heats up, the oil becomes less viscous, and gradually pours into the well. Its properties are truly unique, it is used to produce oils, pharmaceutical products, and diesel fuel, which can retain its quality characteristics at extremely low temperatures, including in the Arctic. Naturally, the demand for this group of products is very high, just like the demand for raw materials, which are mined in Komi,” explained Ildar Fazilov, a graduate student at St. Petersburg Mining University.

In the middle of April, he became a laureate of the All-Russian Contest of Young Scientists “Topical Problems of Subsoil Use”, which was held in the city on the Neva River. The research he presented to the expert jury was dedicated to the methodology of calculating the air temperature in oil mines, i.e., creating preconditions for more comfortable working conditions for miners.

This is a highly relevant area because the level of production in the Yaregskoye field has been growing in recent years. Thus, in 2018 there was produced 1.6 million tons, and in 2020 - already 2 million tons of oil. There are plans to increase production figures to 3.6 million tons by 2024, including through the construction of new steam treatment facilities. However, due to the loss of tax benefits, these programs may be revised and postponed.

Working conditions

Construction of the first oil mine in Komi began in 1936. As in many other similar projects, prisoners were used as labor force and they also lifted the first batches of raw materials to the surface. The creation of acceptable labor conditions was out of the question. Hunger, unsanitary conditions, lack of a proper ventilation system - the prisoners were not entitled to any conveniences or wages.

Today, of course, everything is different. The government declares that “these issues have priority over any other organizational and technical tasks” and spends a lot of money on preventing accidents and injuries and on social guarantees for the personnel. Without integration with science, this cannot be achieved.

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"A group of scientists from Mining University offers a mathematical formula that will allow calculating the temperature of the air in a mine, taking into account the effects of various parameters on it. In the scientific work to verify the formula, computer modeling was used and the results were compared with field measurements of the microclimate. Application of this mathematical model in practice will allow to plan more precisely the special measures, directed on the creation of comfortable labor conditions. Such, for example, as separate ventilation of operating block, allowing to create additional airflow, or carrying out works on thermal insulation of array. However, the second option is less promising,” said Ildar Fazilov.

He specified that every year the mine gets hotter and hotter. Initially, only the oil, which has a temperature of about 80 degrees Celsius, has an impact on its thermal regime. But in two or three years, the mountain massif itself gets heated up. And in 7-8 years, due to the increase in permeability of the formation, the injected steam starts to break through into the mine workings. That is, the older they are, the more effective the cooling system must be.

At the moment, such methods of field development and impact on the oil reservoir are in demand only in Komi, the occurrence conditions and structure of high-viscosity oil in other regions of Russia allow to extract it with the help of classical well drilling. However, it is not excluded that in the future a number of its promising deposits will be developed exactly by the thermo-mine method. Experts say that it is possible, for example, in Tatarstan or Chechnya.