Increasing Russian LNG capabilities

Despite the EU sanctions exempting Russian LNG exports, restrictions on LNG and drilling technology exports to Russia remain in place. This has spurred Russia’s efforts to bolster its LNG capabilities, aiming for independence from Western technology and open the global LNG market for massive volumes of Russian natural gas.

Imagery intelligence indicates that Russia has constructed an LNG facility in Belokamenka near Murmansk, situated in the Barents Sea. This facility is intended for the production of indigenous LNG trains. SpaceKnow’s Guardian IMINT tool enables continuous monitoring of the facility, allowing for tracking of progress on the Russian LNG trains destined for the Arctic-2 LNG terminal.

Both optical and SAR satellite imagery provide insights into the development and departure of the first LNG train from the facility during the summer of 2023. This ongoing monitoring offers valuable intelligence on Russia’s advancements in LNG production, with implications for the global energy landscape.

Belokamenka LNG train production facility, Russia, 19-07-2023, ESA Sentinel-1 SAR, before the departure of LNG train towards Arctic-2 LNG terminal

Belokamenka LNG train production facility, Russia, 31-07-2023, ESA Sentinel-1 SAR, after the departure of LNG train towards Arctic-2 LNG terminal

Belokamenka LNG train production facility, Russia, 28-07-2023, Planet SkySat, the first LNG train towards the Arctic-2 LNG terminal departed, and the second LNG train for Arctic-2 LNG terminal is under construction.

At the Arctic-2 LNG terminal situated on the Gydan Peninsula, Russia is constructing its largest LNG export facility. While open-source intelligence suggests that Russians plan for three LNG trains, SpaceKnow’s imagery-intelligence analysis uncovers an additional fourth berth, potentially indicating preparations for a fourth LNG train. This revelation underscores Russia’s ambitious expansion plans for LNG production at the Arctic-2 terminal, signifying its commitment to capitalize on the region’s vast natural resources and strategic location for global energy exports.

Arctic-2 LNG terminal, Gydan Peninsula, Russia, 25-07-2023, PlanetScope satellite imagery, change detection algorithm, heatmap showing the newly built infrastructure at the LNG terminal construction site including the fourth dent for possible additional LNG train.

Arctic-2 LNG terminal, Gydan Peninsula, Russia, 25-07-2023, PlanetScope satellite imagery, vessels detection algorithm, and bounding boxes are showing automatically detected ships and a visual confirmation of the arrival of the first LNG train at the site.

Arctic-2 LNG terminal, Gydan Peninsula, Russia, 12-12-2023, Planet SkySat satellite imagery, detail of the first LNG train at the site.

As the Arctic-2 LNG terminal aims to become Russia’s primary LNG export hub to the global market, addressing the challenge of shipping LNG to customers is crucial. The Northern Sea Route (NSR) remains ice-free only for a few months during the summer, presenting logistical hurdles for most of the year due to thick ice. Icebreakers are essential to lead convoys of ships through the Arctic Ocean.

To overcome this obstacle, Russia seeks to develop icebreaking-capable LNG tanker vessels. These specialized vessels, exemplified by the Yamalmax class ships currently servicing the neighboring Yamal LNG terminal, are crucial for year-round operations. South Korean shipyard DSME has been instrumental in building these vessels.

To achieve self-sufficiency, Russia endeavors to acquire the technology to domestically produce these icebreaking-capable LNG tankers. SpaceKnow’s imagery analysis captures the construction of these vessels at the Zvezda Shipyard near Vladivostok in the Far East. This development underscores Russia’s strategic efforts to operate the Arctic-2 LNG terminal year-round, enhancing its position in the global LNG market.

Zvezda Shipyard, Bolshoy Kamen, Russia, 02-12-2022, Planet SkySat imagery, SpaceKnow automated vessels detection and classification algorithm, domestically produced icebreaking LNG tanker in dry dock. 

SpaceKnow’s satellite imagery confirms Russia’s drive to bolster domestic LNG capabilities independently of Western technology. It supplements open-source intelligence with accurate data and provides crucial evidence and insights where information is lacking.

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