NIZHNEVARTOVSK – A CITY THAT WAS BORN IN THE SHADOW OF A GIANT

December 06, 2020

Nizhnevartovsk was founded in Western Siberia in the early 1900’s (1905 or 1909). Built as a service point for merchant steamships operating on the Ob River to acquire stocks of firewood to power their boats. The Ob River is the westernmost of the three great Siberian rivers (Yenisey and Lena) that flow into the Arctic Ocean. The settlement was situated in the Sredneobskaya Lowland of West Siberian Plain, in the middle course of the Ob River on its right bank. It had five homes with a population of eleven people, and was named Nizhnevartovskoye, in reference to the Vartovskaya River, a tributary of the Ob River. Nizhnevartovsk remained a relatively small settlement until the 1960s. The climate is temperate continental. Summers are short and cool, winters are long and frosty. Springs and falls are short. The average temperature in January is minus 25.8 degrees Celsius. The Ob River is frozen from November to May.
In 1953 an insignificant fact would give birth to the greatest revolution that Western Siberia has ever known. A strong well blow out happened near Berezovo located in the Northern part of the Khanty Mansi region, near the Ob River, on the 64th parallel. In 1959 an oil and gas deposit discovered near the Shaim settlement by the Konda River was producing more than one ton of oil per day. The neighbor settlement of Uray was registered as a city in 1965; the first oil town of Siberia.
On February 24, 1962, in the Nizhnevartovsk area, the administrative center of the district was transferred from the settlement of Laryak to Nizhnevartovsk. It was due to the fact that Laryak was located too far, at about 140 km from the Ob River which was the essential transportation way.
But the course of history would quickly change for the village that had been sleeping for decades on the banks of the great Siberian river.
In March 1961, Megionskoye oil field was discovered at about 20 Km of Nizhnevartovsk. On May 20, 1965, the first exploratory oil well was drilled near Lake Samotlor, close to the village. It gave an oil blowout on May 29. In April 1969, industrial production of oil began at Samotlorskoye deposit promoting the development of Nizhnevartovsk. Samotlor would quickly become one of the largest petroleum deposits in the world and the largest of the USSR. This major discovery triggered the development and transformation of the village to a boomtown. Komsomol volunteers were brought in from across the country to construct the city, and Nizhnevartovsk’s population skyrocketed from 2300 people in 1959 to 15,663 in 1970.
In 1971, an airport was opened and on March 9, 1972, the settlement became the town of Nizhnevartovsk. By the end of the 1970s – early 1980s, due to gradual exhaustion of oil in Tatarstan and Bashkortostan, the Western Siberia became the main center of the oil extracting industry. A lot of Tatar and Bashkir oil industry workers and their families moved to Nizhnevartovsk.
In 1978, about 1/3 of all oil extracted in Russia was from Samotlor oil field. The record (158.8 million tons per year) was achieved in 1980. Later, the production decreased due to oil deposits exhaustion.
Nizhnvartovsk’s population exceeds today 270,000 and the international airport is one of the largest airports in Russia.
Even if the water-cut exceeds 90%, experts have faith in the future of Samotlor, and think that the field may be producing till the end of this century.
(Source: Rosneft/Russia Trek/Wikipedia – Image: Modern Nizhenevartovsk in the early 2000’s/Rene B/energy global news)