Russia's first Arctic offshore field Prirazlomnoye, where Greenpeace activists were arrested in September after a high seas clash with Russian authorities, has started production of oil, energy company Gazprom said Friday.
The project is almost a decade behind its initial schedule and is one of the most controversial energy projects, seen as dangerous for the environment by the greens, who say that the drilling and storage platform is three decades old.
"We became the pioneers of Russia's Arctic development," Gazprom's Chief Executive Officer Alexei Miller said in a statement.
President Vladimir Putin has said Russia's Arctic offshore riches are of a strategic importance for the country, which now is pumping an average of 10.6 million barrels of oil per day (bpd), close to its current capacity.
However, start of production had long been delayed due to various challenges, including ageing equipment and a change in shareholders structure. Difficulties obtaining official clearances and technical problems also hampered the project.
Russia, the world's second-biggest oil exporter, is vying with Canada, Denmark, Norway and the United States for control of the oil, gas and precious metals that would become more accessible if global warming shrinks the Arctic ice cap.
Greenpeace has said that oil production in the pristine region risks spills similar to the Mexican Gulf disaster at BP's platform in 2010, saying that some of Prirazlomnaya platform's parts were used at another offshore project some 30 years ago.
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