Maps show Ukraine invasion lines versus existing energy resources

By: Sergio Volkmer

February 22, 2022

The recent Russian invasion of Ukraine has been claimed to be due to a multitude of cultural and political reasons. New maps may hold some additional clues and show some interesting connections in the conflict.

The history

Tensions have been simmering between Ukraine and Russia for years and have since erupted into the conflict we see today. This is especially true in the areas of Donetsk and Luhansk, collectively known as the Donbas, where tension has been building since 2014 and was one of the first areas where conflict broke out. The Donbas region maintains 15% of the population of Ukraine, with most of the inhabitants of Russian ethnicity. 

The name ‘Donbas’ says a lot about the region’s history. It’s an old abbreviation for ‘Donets (meaning coal) Basin’, with the area known for its large coal reserves. Donbas has been deeply connected to exploration of mineral coal since the beginning of the industrial age. Today, this basin is recognised as part of a much larger area known as "Dnieper-Donets Basin, holding additional fossil fuels such as oil and gas. 

Ukraine as a whole has been said to have ‘untapped potential’ in gas and oil reserves. Their natural resources have been largely underexplored and underused - despite potentially having tremendous economic benefit. Ukraine currently holds the second largest known gas reserves in Europe.

We can see in new maps uploaded to Soar.Earth that those gas and oil fields are located in the current conflict zone.

The situation today

In the map to the left, we can see both the fronts of invasion, extending beyond the claimed Donbas region by Russia, and the boundaries of the Dnieper-Donets Geologic Basin in the northern area of Ukraine, near the border with Russia. Fossil fuel fields are marked as small dots in red tones: oil is dark red and gas is light red. 

The map shows some lines of invasion are close to areas rich in these resources. You can browse the map below at Soar.Earth, among other maps of the area, including ones in high resolution, in the platform.

In the map extract on the right, from a full geologic map of former USSR, we see the location of oil and gas fields in the northeastern region of Ukraine, where it shares about 2000km of border with Russia, in the Dnieper-Donets Geologic Basin (DDB): a major petroleum province in Eastern Europe. In the map, oil fields are marked as small black dots and gas fields as small red dots. You can browse the georeferenced full geologic map on Soar.Earth.

We can also see highlighted on the map, one of Russia’s Special Economic Zones (SEZ).

Special Economic Zones

SEZ in Russia were established by the Russian Government to attract foreign investment. Almost half of Russia’s 18 Special Economic Zones have been located near the Ukrainian border. This means the area has the highest concentration of SEZs in Russia, even despite its large territory.

The map below shows the high concentration of major planned industrial zones of the SEZ project near the Ukrainian border. They are in development, demanding an enormous amount of energy resources, which they currently have to bring in from a location far away.
What does it mean?

These maps show some interesting connections, however the Russia-Ukraine conflict is complicated and multi-faceted. One could intimate that Russia would benefit from claiming access to those geologic fields of fossil fuels in Ukraine as the resources could power their major industrial zones. However, the invasion has never been claimed to be over resources and there are too many political factors at play to make the assertion on the maps alone. We need more data to make any solid conclusions.

We are getting new data and information every day with maps of the area being uploaded to Soar.Earth.You can explore the maps in this article, as well as browse new and old maps of Ukraine and Russia on Soar.Earth today.
This blog was written by:

Sergio Volkmer

Sérgio is a mapping and remote sensing enthusiast, producing content for Soar.Earth. He studied geology and holds a Master of Philosophy, and is now an architect and contributor to OpenStreetMap and OpenData communities. He believes that information and knowledge are first steps towards personal fulfilment that lead to a better world.

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