Skip to main content

Vladimir Abazarov: “Take Megion oil, Motherland!”

© Абазаров открывает задвижку первой баржи с нефтью. Фото из проекта Агентства нефтегазовой информации "К 50-летию Самотлорского месторождения"

The discovery of the largest field in Russia and the seventh largest in the world, called Samotlor, was a resounding victory for Russian geologists and drillers in 1965. At that time, few believed in the prospects of an oil deposit located under a huge lake, surrounded for many kilometres by impassable swamps.

Despite the optimistic forecasts of Ivan Gubkin, Western Siberia did not obey the assertive geologists for a long time. After the first failures, impatient officials began to doubt the success of the venture and suggested relocating the prospecting. However, the oilmen did not lose hope of finding "liquid gold", going deeper into the hard-to-reach taiga regions. And sometimes at their own risk, following their own convictions, without coordination in authorities and signed resolutions. The story of how Farman Salmanov, the head of a geological exploration party in Kuzbass, arbitrarily transferred his group of 150 people a thousand kilometres to the Tyumen region, disconnecting the radio and violating all conceivable instructions, has become a legend.

Finally, in 1960, the Shaimskoye field was discovered, which gave the first fountain of commercial oil in the West Siberian basin with a flow rate of 400 tonnes per day. Following it, the Middle Priobye also "spoke" at once - in the village of Megion in the Nizhnevartovsk district a well with a flow rate of over 250 tonnes per day began to spurt. The picture of this region's potential, its uniqueness and value was becoming clearer every day. Thousands of field workers rushed to the North.

The young geologist Vladimir Abazarov was entrusted to head the established Megion oil exploration expedition in February 1962. The discovery of 40 oil fields - Ust-Balykskoye, Vatinskoye, Severo-Pokurovskoye, Zapadno-Surgutskoye, Pravdinskoye, Mamontovskoye, as well as the legendary giant - Samotlor - is associated with the name of this man.

© из фонда МБУ "Нижневартовского краеведческого музея им. Т. Д. Шуваева"

Geology and mining have one interesting peculiarity. People who decide to link their destiny with them very rarely do it by chance. Predominantly, they "get sick" of minerals from childhood: they collect minerals, go on hikes and dream of big expeditions.

Vladimir Alekseevich, surprisingly enough, was not interested in natural sciences at all in his youth. He was born in 1930 in the farm Tikhovsky (now Krasnodar Krai) and dreamed of becoming a military pilot. A few years ago the Great Patriotic War ended, and such a desire of the boy was quite understandable. After graduating from school, the young man entered the Moscow Aviation Institute, but soon he had to return to get a job and help his family.

In 1949, active oil development began in Kuban, and Abazarov changed his plans - he entered Grozny Oil Institute, where he got a speciality of a mining engineer for drilling deep oil and gas wells. For the first six years the newly minted specialist worked at the enterprises of the Krasnodar Territory and the Stalingrad Region. However, information about the search for hydrocarbons in the North began to reach him more and more often. His intuition told him that the epicentre of discoveries was there, in Western Siberia.

"The restless are attracted by the unknown, I was attracted by the romance of searching for and discovering oil and gas fields...", - the geologist liked to repeat.

At the beginning of 1959 Vladimir Abazarov decided to write a letter to the head of the Tyumen geological department Yuri Ervier and soon received a reply with an invitation to work. For almost a year he tried to get his release, received threats of dismissal by article and as a result he was forced to leave without a labour book. At first, "Papa Yura", as Tyumen geologists called Ervier, put him in charge of the Khanty-Mansiysk and then Beryozovsk geological exploration expeditions. Two years later, he was already in charge of the Megion expedition.

© Из фондов Сургутского краеведческого музея

At that time, only one Megion oil field had been discovered in the Middle Priobie. But even this "first swallow" did its job. The future oil was already included in the state plans, reserves were estimated. The country was waiting for resounding victories... But what besides the inflated expectations did the promising territory represent at that time?

"We arrived in the expedition area at five o'clock in the morning. I went up on deck, the water had fallen considerably, I saw the high bank of the Mega, strewn with stumps. There were more than a dozen log cabins without roofs, about a hundred tents along the bank, and a few inhabited houses. There were two sheds: under one - a power station, under the other - a pipe-cutting lathe, a boiler house under construction. In short, the place of residence was the taiga," Abazarov recalled the picture before him.

© из фонда МБУ "Нижневартовского краеведческого музея им. Т. Д. Шуваева"

Everything had to be started from scratch. Vladimir Alekseevich urgently flew to Tyumen and "beat out" what other managers could not achieve: 80 wagon-houses, six drilling machines, about two dozen tractors, cranes, cars, more than ten ATL, ATC, ATT all-terrain vehicles, six bulldozers, new boats, barges, lathes, materials for drilling, diesel fuel, petrol and so on. In return, he promised to fulfil the expectations.

Abazarov's priority task was to increase the pace of exploration and preparation of oil reserves. The volumes of exploratory drilling of the expedition grew very fast. If in 1961 the penetration was 6350 metres, in 1963 the expedition became one of the best enterprises with more than 30 thousand metres of drilling per year. Deposits were discovered one after another.

On the day when the first batch of oil was sent to the Omsk Refinery, Abazarov sent a telegram to the VIII Plenum of the Industrial Regional Committee of the CPSU: "Get Megion oil, Motherland!".

A turning point in the history of the Tyumen Region was the discovery of the oil giant - the Samotlor field in 1965.

In general, Samotlor is a lake located near the confluence of the Vakh and Ob rivers near Nizhnevartovsk. There are many swamps and small lakes around it, which is reflected in its name. In Khanty language it translates as "trap lake" or "dead lake".

For the first time the Samotlor geophysical structure was discussed in the spring of 1963 in Abazarov's office - Leonid Kabaev, the head of the Nizhnevartovsk seismic party, laid out on the table a large map with seismic profiles with points at certain intervals, each of which had a number indicating the depth of the reflecting horizon. Nothing like this had ever been seen in the Nizhnevartovsk district before. It was a characteristic structure of the field, the peak of which, with a huge gas cap, was presumably located under a body of water. Abazarov agreed to transport the drilling rig to the P-1 point, which was located in the centre of the structure.

However, the first attempt to go this way ended in failure - the first tractor with the equipment was drowned due to the impossibility of laying a winter road (even January frosts of -38°C could not freeze the bogs). Then Vladimir Alekseevich, having studied the topography of the whole district, decided to lay a winter railway through Nizhnevartovsk, then along the Vakh River and up to the planned point. The length of the track was 3 times longer, but at least "there was land" on this side.

In the beginning of 1965 the laying of the route to the first exploration well began, and already in May the head of the Megion expedition sent a famous radiogram to the head of "Tyumenneftegeologia" Yuri Ervie:

"At the well P-1 of Samotlor in the interval of 2123-2130 metres an oil fountain was obtained. The well is being worked out. Visual flow rate is more than 300 cubic metres per day".

© Самотлорское месторождение

Another month later, the fountain's capacity exceeded 1,000 cubic metres of oil per day. The pressure inside the reservoir was so high and the oil was bursting from the depths with such force that steel pipes were heated. Commercial oil and gas content was found in 18 productive formations in the Jurassic and Cretaceous systems at depths of 1,600 to 2,500 metres.

However, it took another three and a half years to start production drilling. Today it takes forty minutes to get to Samotlor on a concrete road, but back then it took a month to cross these thirty kilometres on skis through frozen swamps. All around were lakes, big and small, with brown patches between them. A swamp. When the oilmen reached the lake, they were shocked by its size - the sea. One could not even see the other shore. Before the beginning of the field development the area of the water surface was 63 square kilometres, length - 11 km, width - 6 km, the greatest depth reached 3 metres.

There was no experience of exploitation of similar fields in the world practice - an original solution was required. Initially two options were proposed: to completely drain the lake-marsh or to build trestles on it and drill from the sites. The first option was not suitable because of the fire hazard of peat, the second - because of the duration of construction works.

Then a third option was born, combining the first two - to create a fishery directly on the lake-marsh by building artificial islands for drilling rigs. With the help of construction of a special canal, 60% of the lake volume was discharged, and on the exposed areas of the bottom a network of roads was paved, sand islands were created and drilling rigs were built.

The Samotlor field under Vladimir Alekseevich's leadership was put into commercial development in 1969. In 1971 it produced more than 1 million 350 thousand tonnes of oil, and in 1974 - 100 million tonnes of oil.

© Газета "Ленинское знамя", 1981 год

In total, over 20,000 wells have been drilled and more than 2.8 billion tonnes of oil and more than 395 billion m³ of gas have been produced over the years of the field's operation. This brought Russia revenues of over $245bn, while the cost of its development and exploitation did not exceed $27bn.

For the discovery of large oil fields in the Middle Priobie and accelerated preparation of commercial reserves Abazarov was awarded the Lenin Prize in 1970, and in 1976 he received the most prestigious among geologists title "Discoverer of the field". He also holds the titles "Honourable Oilman of Russia", "Excellence in Subsoil Exploration" and Order of Lenin.

© Диплом "Первооткрывателя месторождения Владимира Абазарова"

The talented geologist had many more achievements and discoveries on his way. Starting from the 70s, he headed the Karskaya, Yuzhno-Tarkosalinsk and Yamal oil exploration expeditions, NGDU Megionneft, held senior positions in Glavtyumengeologiya and Glavtyumenneftegaz.

For more than 30 years Abazarov created and led teams of like-minded people who discovered more than a hundred hydrocarbon fields, which allowed Russia to become one of the largest oil and gas powers in the world. Oilmen, geologists, miners, who started to develop the North and stood at the origins of its oil history, are a very special people. It requires colossal fortitude not to abandon everything halfway, especially under those conditions and difficulties. When we were dragging the drilling rig, every hundred metres the cables and booms of the excavator broke, the tractors fell into the mire, the thermometer dropped to minus 60 degrees, and even the diesel fuel froze. But metre by metre, month by month under the leadership of Vladimir Alekseevich they advanced on the roadless terrain and did not give up.

The discoverer of Samotlor died in 2003. Today, a field in Nizhnevartovsk District and a street in Megion are named in his honour.

© Пресс-служба ОАО "НК Роснефть"