Hands off northern Siberia, oil companies told

日期:2019-03-02 08:07:06 作者:郇颢昴 阅读:

By FRED PEARCE in NOYABRSK An international scientific expedition to Siberia last week called for a 10-year moratorium on the extension of oil and gas production to a vast, pristine region of north-west Siberia close to the Arctic Circle. The scientists say the ban will allow urgent research to be conducted into the ecology of its forests, peat bogs and tundra. The expedition surveyed giant oilfields already operating across Western Siberia, a region almost the size of western Europe that contains the world’s largest area of bogs. It also compared this landscape with untouched regions to the north. From helicopters, western scientists for the first time saw how hundreds of thousands of square kilometres of swamp and virgin pine and birch forests have been carved into small fragments by oil pipelines, roads, pylons and seismic survey lines. Russian data seen by the team provided evidence of extensive oil pollution of lakes, marshes, ground – waters and rivers that flow north to the Arctic Ocean. In places, gas flares dotted the skyline and black smoke billowed across ancient sphagnum bogs. Noyabrsk is the centre of one of several oil and gas-producing regions in western Siberia and the largest city in the expedition area. Fifteen years ago, it did not exist, and still does not appear on many Western maps. Nor do the 1200 kilometres of roads and 7000 kilometres of pipelines that crisscross the surrounding district. Siberian oil companies are about to extend their operations north into the Krasnoselkup region, which extends on either side of the River Taz for 106 000 square kilometres, almost the size of England. This is one reason why the local authorities and Noyabrskneftegas – one of Russia’s largest state oil companies – invited the Western scientists in. The expedition included some 30 foresters and ecologists from both Russia and the West, along with oil industry specialists sent by the European Commission. Its brief was to advise on how to reduce the extensive environmental damage from oil and gas exploration in western Siberia. The Russians said they also hoped to use the team’s findings to attract Western technical and financial aid for the oil industry. The expedition saw one rig already at work in Krasnoselkup, close to Devil’s Lake, spewing large amounts of contaminated mud into its waters. The lake is an imp-ortant habitat for birds, fish, bears and reindeer. It also provides the headwater for rivers flowing out of the region. According to Nicolay Korovayev, deputy chairman of Krasnoselkup’s environment committee, ‘large areas around the lake are becoming disturbed’. Also, oil workers hunting the local animals indiscriminately, threatening the survival of the nomadic Selkup people, who live by herding reindeer and hunting. At the suggestion of the chief scientist of the expedition, Vladimir Sedykh, director of forest research for the Siberian branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences, the expedition called for the Krasnoselkup region to be protected from development until its ecology had been investigated, and that ‘this could most effectively be carried out if there were a 10-year moratorium on oil and gas development’. According to Bob Turnbull of the Institute of Offshore Engineering at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh – who joined the team as an adviser to the Commission – much of the Siberian industry is ‘still stuck with the technology of the 1950s and 1960s’. At the end of the expedition last week, Turnbull told visibly agitated Siberian oilmen how modern methods of drilling would allow them ‘to replace 20 drilling sites with a single drill’. This, he said, would result in massive reductions in other elements of the infrastructure, such as roads. The expedition’s final report also condemns large-scale, unplanned quarrying of local sand deposits to create raised roads and drilling pads; the drowning of forests and disruption to their drainage caused by poorly designed roads; and the failure of the company to build roads, pipelines, pylons and seismic survey lines along the same routes. Members also criticised the apparent absence of any policy to demolish drilling pads, roads or pipelines once drilling was finished. Many could ‘remain visible longer than the old Roman roads of Britain’. Scientists from BIOM, a local private consulting company, said that in the Noyabrsk region alone there had been more than 300 recorded oil spills, some covering up to 400 hectares, during the past decade. Much more pollution, especially of marshes and groundwaters, may result from oil seeping unseen from buried pipelines and unlined waste pools at wellheads. But Guennady Kharmov, chief engineer of Noyabrskneftegas, claimed that his company had a better environmental record than others. ‘Though it is still primitive, you won’t see our level of environmental monitoring in any other area,’ he said. It tackles oil spills by ploughing the oil into the thin soils or by setting it on fire. And it is increasingly making use of waste gas that is pumped up with the oil, rather than burning it all in wellhead flares. ‘We will eventually have full utilisation of all the associated gas,