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Hi-tech at edge of Arctic Circle

Russia’s Nenets Autonomous District inside the Arctic Circle is famous not only for its extreme temperatures and fascinating nature, but also for its booming oil industry and cutting-edge technologies.

Across the seemingly endless tundra in the Nenets Autonomous District - hundreds of kilometers from anything resembling modern civilization - you will find a fascinating combination of natural resources and cutting edge technology at the Yuzhnoye Khylchuyu oilfield.

“We are the biggest-producing oilfield in the Naryanmarneftegaz system. For example, in September we are preparing to receive nearly 21,000 tons of oil,” said Ruslan Isangulov, Director of the Yuzhnoye Khylchuyu oilfield.

Poised on the edge of Russia’s Arctic frontier, Naryan-Mar’s oil rich prowess was starting to become clear during the mid- to late-1980’s, but with the collapse of the Soviet Union, oil exploration in the area came to a halt. That is until recently. Now the region is known not only for fishing and reindeer, but for oil as well.

“Before there was nothing here but tundra, grazing land for reindeer herders,” Vladimir Romanenko, a geologist, said. “In 2004, we started oil exploitation and now everything you see here is standing on solid ground.”

Being above the Arctic Circle, when winter hits, this area produces some of the hardest working conditions in the entire world.

“The conditions are very severe: extreme frost and powerful wind,” a drill operator says. “But we have real men working here, who don’t pay attention to that sort of thing. We are making heat for the motherland.”

There are no roads here and everything comes in by helicopter.

“In the winter, we make special ice roads,” says Ruslan Isangulov, Director of Yuzhnoye Khylchuyu oilfield.

However, despite the environmental obstacles, the Yuzhnoye Khylchuyu facility has already made its mark on the oil industry.

“Young specialists who come to us after the institutes are working with the latest technology in the industry, and they can use the knowledge they learn here to really advance to a successful career,” Isangulov said.

The oil field is spread out over a vast area with different technical and mechanical activites happening in many different areas, but through the miracles of modern technology, all of that can be monitored on computer screens.

Such technology leads to efficiency, which in turn leads to profit, a good portion of which comes back to the capital Naryan-Mar and the surrounding communities to improve the infrastructure.

Now modern buildings and facilities are popping up all over the place: a stark contrast to the worn buildings of the old Soviet expeditions.

“The taxes from the oil companies and the transportation helps to pay for our infrastructure,” says Igor Mikhailov, vice governor. “As you can see, as a result, the buildings and the living conditions in the area have improved.”

But more than just buildings, the oil field provides jobs as well. Over 300 employees help make the multinational facility operate to export oil all over the globe, giving Naryan-Mar its place on the map.