The super ice-class (Arc6) double- hulled tanker Mikhail Ulyanov arrived last week at the Prirazlomnaye arctic production platform to take on a 70,000 ton load of crude oil. The order to load oil was given directly to Gazprom via Russian president Vladimir Putin.
This platform is located approximately 60 kilometers offshore in the Pechora Sea and was the scene of an ugly and highly public confrontation last year between Gazprom and Greenpeace activists.
Gazprom is steadfast in their claim that this platform is safe to operate in arctic conditions however. The company notes:
The produced oil is stored in the caisson with three-meter-high concrete walls covered with two-layer corrosion- and wear-proof clad steel plate. The caisson is able to store some 94 thousand tons of oil. Its safety margin greatly exceeds the actual loads. In addition, a wet method of oil storage is used at the platform. The method eliminates the possibility of oxygen getting inside the tanks and thus prevents the creation of an explosive environment.
In order to pump the end products into oil vessels, special equipment was developed for direct oil loading. To avoid accidental oil spills, the loading block system goes off in seven seconds at most. The platform is equipped with two special complexes of such a kind, placed diagonally on the opposite boards – southwestern and northeastern.
Unlike the conical-shaped drilling vessel Kulluk or large production units in the Gulf of Mexico, the Prirazlomnaye is gravity-based, meaning it is resting on the bottom of the ocean.
The following image shows the Prirazlomnaye being towed out into the Pechora Sea in January 2011, via Gazprom: