Russia’s longest bridge opens up new energy resources

The longest railway bridge in Russia is due to be finished by 2009. The link across the Yuribey River on the Yamal Peninsula in the north-west of Siberia is probably the most challenging construction project under way in the country.

The Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous area is known for its abundance of hydrocarbons. The region has enjoyed rapid growth in the past 30 years.

Exploration of the huge West Siberian hydrocarbon reserves has prompted construction of roads and railways, which now connect most of the region’s oil and gas deposits.

But as output at many fields is now on the decline, Gazprom is taking major steps to establish a new production base on the Yamal peninsula.

All of this means that new infrastructure is needed, like Russia's longest railway bridge, which spans the Yuribey river.

It’s arguably the most ambitious construction project in the country. Gazprom began work in 2007 but, until now, journalists have not been allowed to see it.

It’s being built in severe weather conditions. The river is frozen over for ten months a year and the temperature can fall below -40 degrees Celsius.

The four-kilometre long bridge, due for completion in 2009, will pave the way to the Bovanenkovskoye field and several other natural gas deposits on the Yamal Peninsula, which have proven oil and gas reserves of almost 6 trillion cubic metres.

 “It’s an unprecedented project. Bridges of such size have never been built beyond the Arctic Circle. It will be part of a 500-kilometre railway to connect the mainland and the peninsula,” said Vyacheslav Poddubny, head of construction.

People from all over Russia come to work at the site, attracted by the high wages on offer for working in the harsh conditions. The average salary is about $US 2500 per month.

The price of the project hasn’t been disclosed, but it’s in the hundreds of millions of dollars.