Untitled Document

BLACK ICE

Russia's ongoing oil spill crisis

For decades, Russia's oil giants have been secretly polluting parts of the country's once thriving landscape, spilling oil onto the land and into the Arctic Ocean, poisoning the water and destroying the livelihood of local communities and Indigenous Peoples.

Greenpeace has investigated and documented the ongoing disaster, revealing how the oil seeps into rivers and farmland. This leaked oil spreads and becomes a thick, heavy mire, suffocating plants and animals, and forcing people to abandon the area entirely. The oil contaminates food and water supplies, and people live with the knowledge that their once clean rivers, forests and air now pose serious health risks.

When BP spilt 4.9 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, the whole world took notice. The Russian oil industry spills 30 million barrels on land each year — seven times the amount that escaped during the Deepwater Horizon disaster — all under a veil of secrecy and corruption. And every 18 months, more than four million barrels spews directly into the Arctic Ocean, where it becomes everyone's problem.

Komi district oil spill sites

After analysing satellite images to identify spill sites, Greenpeace staff travelled to the region to investigate and document the spills and expose the extent of the damage. All these photos  were taken over a three-day period in just one of the many oil spill hotspots in Russia.

oil spill 01
oil spill 02
oil spill 03
oil spill 0
oil spill 0
oil spill 0
oil spill 0
oil spill 0
oil spill 0
oil spill 10
oil spill 11
oil spill 12
oil spill 13
oil spill 14
 

The cycle of oil, corruption and pollution

Intensive development work carried out by the oil and gas industry is generally accompanied by large-scale PR campaigns. These are focused on making local residents believe that oil drilling and production are absolutely harmless and will positively contribute to the overall development of the region and its infrastructure.

How much oil is spilled in Russia each year?

Extreme weather conditions along with a lack of maintenance have resulted in a slow but constant seepage of oil from pipeline ruptures. Additionally, there is still "outlawed" burning of associated gas (60% of which is methane — a powerful greenhouse gas). Russia produces around 55 billion cubic metres of this kind of gas annually.

Community breakdown

Indigenous groups of the Russian North, Siberia and the Far East of Russia, totaling about 250,000 people, are some of the most vulnerable groups in Russian society. Their economy and traditional lifestyles are directly dependent on fishing, hunting, deer farming and gathering, so the development of extractive industries, private fisheries and forest industry badly affects their traditional territories, and their right to sustain themselves in a traditional way off the land.

F

rom the age of 12 till he retired at 72 Kanev Vyacheslav Vaselyevick bred reindeers from the Komi village Ust'-Usa.

Reindeers need wide, free land. Today Komi land is marred by more than 3,000 drill holes, thousands of kilometers of pipelines, numerous roads, paths and oil industry facilities. Kanev says that he had to drive his animals further and further south to provide them untouched pastures. The reindeers refused to eat the moss and the lichens from the contaminated region. The spread of the oil industry makes breeding reindeers impossible and it is no longer a viable livelihood.
Valery Bratenkov

V

alery Bratenkov works as a foreman at oil fields outside Usinsk. After hours, he is with a local environmental group. Bratenkov used to point out to his bosses that oil spills often happen under their noses and asked them to repair the pipelines. "They were offended and said that costs too much money." (Source: AP on location with Greenpeace)

In the oil development area, the spilled oil forms toxic lakes, suffocates the vegetation, penetrates the soil, and seeps into the groundwater. In the little village of Ust'-Usa the people live with the consequences every day.
drinking water
Village Kolva at river Kolva and inhabitants. Young unemploied men at the river.

Y

oung people in the village of Kolva have little hope for their future. They suffer from high unemployment, very few get jobs with the oil companies and other opportunities are limited. Alcoholism is is also a problem.

The suicide rate in Russia is already considered to be a national crisis. In the Komi Republic, the rates are nearly double the national average and amongst the Indigenous communities, suicide rates are three times this level.

Spring melt reveals oil spilt through the winter

A

fisherman in Kolva shows his meager catch. "40 years ago they arrived, drilled oil and just let it bubble into the landscape and the rivers, until the fish swam with the stomach upward. Then we knew what the future would be like." Fishing, hunting and farming were the traditional professions of the Komi, but nowadays nobody can live off them anymore. Impartial tests show that fish are contaminated with toxic oil residues that repeatedly breach acceptable health limits.
Once a good livelihood, fishing has now become a meagre existence for the the people of Kolva village

I

n the long Arctic winter, oil leaks unnoticed from numerous underground pipeline ruptures. With the rising temperatures in summer, huge amounts of oil are flushed with the melt-water into the rivers. "In springtime it is the worst," say the inhabitants of Ust'-Usa. "Then you have got oil in the water, in the air, in the food, everywhere. It stinks of oil. The spring is one of the worst seasons."

Russia's claim on the Arctic

Lessons to be learned

According to a representative from the Russian Ministry of Natural Resources, "The development of Russia's continental shelf is characterised by the most complicated working conditions and requires the use of new and unique technologies. At the same time, among the major constraints are: extremely difficult, natural climatic and engineering-geological conditions, lack of infrastructure, remoteness of extraction areas from coastal support bases, and the absence of proven technologies for the development of offshore oil and gas fields in the Arctic."

If the Russian oil and gas industry has been unable to adhere to regulations in the existing fields — despite having all the necessary technical capabilities — why would we believe it will show any greater responsibility to environmental issues when developing the offshore Arctic?

Previously classified government documents state that dealing with oil spills in the freezing waters is "almost impossible" and inevitable mistakes would shatter the fragile Arctic environment. To drill in the Arctic, oil companies have to drag icebergs out the way of their rigs and use giant hoses to melt floating ice with warm water. In these conditions, a catastrophic oil spill is just a matter of time.



Spread the word

Share on Facebook Share on TitterShare on Tumblr

Act now to save the Arctic


Downloads


Links

 

The latest updates

 

Pedalling Down the Days to Copenhagen

Blog entry by Anil Kanji | June 30, 2009

Have you had it with endless talk of climate change doom and gloom?  Looking for an opportunity to act?  Here's your chance - Pedal for the Planet needs you!  This Friday, Canadians on both coasts are departing from Victoria, BC ,...

Greenpeace races to reach disintegrating glacier

Feature story | June 29, 2009 at 13:45

Our ship, The Arctic Sunrise is currently heading north along the west coast of Greenland in a race against time. It's destination is the disintegrating Petermann Glacier, but to reach the glacier our ship must pass through the Nares Strait,...

Reasons to Believe: Servers

Blog entry by Anil Kanji | June 17, 2009

This week US Energy Secretary Steven Chu told a gathering that included premiers from Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba that the entire world must do more to address climate change.  He referred to impacts the world is feeling right...

No (Place Like) Home

Blog entry by Anil Kanji | June 16, 2009 2 comments

Passing by the corner coffee shop, I saw this ad  for the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, BC. It got me thinking - The City of Vancouver predicts severe impacts from the effects of climate change.  And some of the more dire...

Efficientcity & Canada's Energy [R]evolution

Blog entry by Anil Kanji | June 15, 2009

Have you seen Efficientcity?  It's a great interactive website from Greenpeace UK that demonstrates how renewable energy could be used in an urban setting.  It's a fun way to take a look at some of the technologies discussed in ...

801 - 805 of 937 results.