The Berkut Oil Rig is the biggest oil rig in the world, weighing in at a staggering 200,000 tons. Located in the Sea of Okhotsk on the Russian Pacific Coast just north of Japan, the rig is expected to extract 4.5 million tons of oil per year.
It has been built to exploit the vast oil reserves of the Arkutun-Dagi field, which spreads 60km from the Russian coast and contains recoverable oil reserves estimated at 72 million tons.
Berkut, which means ‘Golden Eagle’ in Russian, is believed to have cost around $12 billion to build. This huge investment was financed by the Sakhalin-1 Consortium, an international consortium of oil companies from the USA, Russia, Japan and India which includes ExxonMobil and Rosneft.
The investment is likely to pay huge dividends, with the Russian government expecting a windfall of $9 billion in tax revenues alone over the next decade.
To fully exploit the Arkutun-Dagi oil field, 45 wells are being drilled including 28 oil producing wells, 16 water injection wells and a cutting re-injection well. The oil extracted at Berkut will be processed at the Chaivo onshore processing facility before being transported by pipeline to DeKastri oil export terminal, one of the largest oil terminals in the Far East.
The platform is built on a gravity-based structure (GBS) which is fixed to the seabed at a depth of 35 metres. The GBS was built at Vostochny Port in eastern Russia and used an estimated 52,000m³ of concrete and 27,000 tons of steel reinforcing bar. The upper part of the platform was built in a Korean shipyard and was hauled approximately 2,600 kilometres to the Arkutun-Dagi field. Overall it is estimated that 4,000 people were involved in the construction project.
When the going gets tough...
Just like the Mirny Diamond Mine, Berkut is subject to unimaginably harsh weather conditions. The rig has been designed to withstand temperatures as low as -44 degrees Celsius (-47 Fahrenheit) and contains its own power supply to keep operations running throughout the long winter months.
The rig features a newly-developed ice protection belt made from concrete, rather than the standard (and more expensive) metal used on most rigs. This is built to withstand the tremendous pressure exerted by ice sheets of up to two metres in thickness. This protective belt will also brace the structure against waves up to 18 metres high. The rig can also survive earthquakes.
These unique features combined with the sheer scale of the operation make Berkut a very remarkable feat of engineering.