Gazprom Neft takes risks in the Arctic

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Feature story - 17 December, 2012
Gazprom neft is preparing to launch exploratory drilling at its second oil field on the Arctic shelf – Dolginsky, while the problems of Prirazlomnoye field remain unsolved. WWF and Greenpeace have published a research on the risks of oil production in the Arctic, and urge the company to consider it before the drilling is started.


Gazprom Neft held public hearings on the project of exploration drilling at Dolginsky field on December 10th in Naryan-Mar. It expects to launch drilling in summer 2013.

However, the company failed to answer the main question of environmentalists: how it intends to deal with potential oil spills in the Arctic? Gazprom Neft never provided an oil spill emergency response plan for Prirazlomnaya rig to NGOs. WWF Russia expert in Nenets region Sergei Uvarov noted at the hearings that the project of oil spill response plan for Dolginsky is crude, and encouraged to bring it up for public discussion.

WWF Russia and Greenpeace Russia today have published an independent research "Modeling of potential oil spill behavior when operating Prirazlomnaya OIFP. Assessment of possible oil spill emergency response". The research was done by Russian research center Informatica Riska. Preliminary results of the study had been introduced to Gazprom Neft managers in August this year, but they did not bother to change their plans to mitigate environmental risks.

"The experts ran computerized risk models of oil spills at the Prirazlomnaya rig and reviewed tens of thousands of possible scenarios. They concluded that the area of possible contamination covers over 140,000 square kilometers of open water, as well as over 3,000 kilometers of coastline. The area at risk also includes three protected areas located 50-60 km from the Prirazlomnaya oil rig: Nenetsky natural reserve, Vaigach and Nenetsky wildlife preserves – says the coordinator of Greenpeace Arctic Program Roman Dolgov. "It's hard to explain – why Russia chooses the most expensive and dangerous way to replenish oil reserves? Any failure in harsh Arctic conditions could become catastrophic."

WWF Russia believes that Gazprom Neft underestimates the risks and behaves irresponsibly.

"Even if the drilling in the Arctic is fulfilled in ice-free season, the risks are still high, – says Mikhail Babenko, coordinator of oil and gas projects at WWFArctic program. The most urgent questions: is the equipment effective enough to control oil spills, how the company is going to liquidate the spills, is it able to complete drilling a well within summer season – still remain unanswered. If Shell in Alaska at least tried to show that they have these answers, for Dolginsky we have no answers yet.

Oil spill modeling for Prirazlomnaya clearly showed what the contamination would look like. And still we don’t know what resources the company has to mitigate it. It seems that the company has not drawn any conclusions and its attitude towards the Arctic remains just exploitative”.

Today there are no effective technologies of large oil spills liquidation in ice conditions. The operator would have to clean the pollution on the ice, under the ice, under the snow cover, which requires a lot of money and efforts. In particular, aviation, ice-class vessels, specially trained staff are needed. In the ice season it’s almost impossible to plan the response activities, as the working conditions are extremely volatile and difficult to predict.
"While Arctic oil exploration is associated with huge environmental and economic risks, there are much more secure and cost-effective alternatives in Russia. Our country has enormous potential in the fields of energy savings and renewable sources. It’s only wise to reduce our dependence on oil through innovative development, instead of trying to squeeze the last drops" – sums up Roman Dolgov.

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