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As a simplified procedure for the exploration of hydrocarbons should intensify subsoil use

For the oil and gas sectors, the “declarative” principle of obtaining rights to use exploration sites has earned - without competition, although not without some restrictions. Such a scheme, according to the Ministry of Environment, has previously proved effective in the case of solid minerals. Whether all the problems of geological exploration in the Far East are solved by the introduction of a new principle, EastRussia understood.

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The Ministry of Natural Resources for the first time announced plans to use the application principle for the distribution of poorly studied hydrocarbon deposits back in March 2016. The Office took almost a year to agree on the text of the relevant order with the FAS and the Ministry of Economic Development. Last year, Minister Sergei Donskoy said that expanding the application of the declarative principle would compensate for the decline in investment in geological exploration related to the macroeconomic situation: "We forecast an increase in investments in the search for deposits. According to experts, in five years it will increase by 30% from today's level. "

The new procedure was approved by the Ministry of Natural Resources in January. It involves the provision of subsoil plots to companies without auctions and tenders, that is, upon applications. Prior to that, subsoil users could obtain a license for geological prospecting in unexplored hydrocarbon areas only after they submitted an application to include the area in the list. However, this did not guarantee obtaining a license, since several companies could apply for plots in the list at once. 

Since 2014, the application procedure has been in effect for solid minerals. The head of the Ministry of Natural Resources, Sergei Donskoy, calculated that thanks to the use of the declarative principle for subsoil areas with solid mineral resources, the relative share of Russia in global investments in geological exploration in 2013-2015 more than doubled. In 2015, the interim head of Rosnedr, Evgeny Kiselev, said that after the introduction of the declarative principle, in the next three to four years, the inflow of investments into geological exploration within the framework of the issued licenses will reach 10 billion rubles in current prices. In 2015, in the Far East, where the largest and most complex projects are being implemented, geological exploration for solid minerals was carried out under 518 licenses at the expense of extra-budgetary funds. "The main goal is to attract private investment in the search for deposits," says Nikolai Gudkov, spokesman for the Ministry of Natural Resources.

Analyst of the Finam Group of Companies Alexey Kalachev explained to EastRussia that the innovation is associated with a change in the order of consideration of applications. In particular, the declarative principle of granting the right to use subsoil plots has been introduced in relation to plots for which there is no data on the presence of reserves or forecast resources of hydrocarbon raw materials. “I think that the areas provided for exploration, including in Yakutia, are sufficient for oil and gas companies for 2017,” he says. Naturally, in order to avoid completely uncontrolled "self-seizure" of areas, certain restrictions are introduced: no more than three subsoil areas with an area of ​​no more than 100 sq. km - for solid minerals, no more than three subsoil plots with an area of ​​no more than 500 sq. km - for hydrocarbon raw materials, provided that during the two years preceding the filing date of the corresponding application, there have been no violations of the conditions for the use of subsoil under licenses previously received by them in the application procedure. In addition, we can only talk about subsoil areas where there are no confirmed reserves yet and geological exploration is not being conducted on them by the state or other subsoil users.

A spokesman for Rosneft, who wished to remain anonymous, said that the declarative principle, using solid minerals as an example, showed very good growth. “People are very greedy to take for themselves what is simply given. This is simplification of legislation, attraction of small and medium capital. In fact, in terms of capital costs, development is quite expensive, not everyone is ready to take on development, so a similar industry-wide incentive is introduced. This is a great example of a change in legislation that has not been applied before, ”he notes. According to him, now even those who were previously far from oil and gas development can get guaranteed plots.

Igor Yushkov, a leading analyst at the National Energy Security Fund, lecturer at the Financial University under the Government of the Russian Federation, believes that the infrastructure in the Far Eastern Federal District is poorly developed, therefore, obtaining a license for oil and gas production is only a small part of the operators' concern. It is also necessary to build an oil pipeline, a gas pipeline, a railroad or a motor road, create power generating capacities there, while the level of knowledge of the Far East is extremely low. "Therefore, the state simply may not have such fields in the unallocated fund that would interest investors: fields with large reserves are needed so that they pay off after the construction of infrastructure. In Yakutia, in the near future, only Gazprom will operate - an oil rim from the Chayandinskoye field and accordingly, gas production in the same area, "he said in a conversation with EastRussia.

According to the expert, the state is ready to practice the declarative principle, since there is no money to study subsoil independently. "Therefore, it allows companies to try their luck. But as a rule, projects for which you can apply are extremely risky, and the chances of finding a large deposit are quite small. Since the geological knowledge is low in the Far East, the state is trying to correct the situation with new rules," Igor Yushkov.

Vyacheslav Kulagin, Director of the Center for the Study of World Energy Markets at ERI RAS, emphasizes that the declarative principle for hydrocarbons is a good step towards the partial removal of regulatory functions from the state, and in this case it is expected that this will lead to an increase in investment. Andrei Ivanov, executive director of the Green Arctic public organization, agrees: the declarative principle is, first of all, the solution of a systemic task for the country to intensify geological exploration. "It is constantly discussed that we have insufficient exploration activity. And just due to the introduction of this principle in hydrocarbons, it turns out that the gates open gradually. This solves the problem of inflowing new funds into exploration and prospecting, this is the way to create pioneering companies," says it.

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