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Rosneft and BP are Planning to Drill for Oil in a Remote Region of the Arctic. Is it a Slapdash Environmental Attitude?
January 21, 2011 16:23

Russian Rosneft oil company and British BP will explore the Kara Sea, known for its energy resources and the most fragile environment in the world. This fact frightens ecologists.

The strategic alliance, formed on January, 14, has frightened ecologists. The oil majors will explore and develop three license blocks in the South Kara Sea. The Kara Sea is east of Novaya Zemlya in the Russian Arctic, and three license blocks to explore by BP and Rosneft cover an area of 125,000 square kilometres.

This territory is free from ice only for about hundred days in the year but it looks attractive. If the preliminary estimates are correct, this area in the sea could contain five billion tons of oil and three thousand billion tons of gas. The area and its potential is compatible to the British North Sea. The permission for this zone was granted to the Russian company in October, 2010.

According to Offshore magazine, "under the new accord, they have also agreed to establish an arctic technology center in Russia which will cooperate with Russian and international research institutes, design bureaus and universities to develop technologies and engineering practice for safe extraction of hydrocarbon resources from the Arctic shelf."

Under the leadership of Igor Sechin, former Prime Minister, Rosneft became a state company by 75% and turned to a leading oil-producing company, with output of around 2.4 MMboe/d, and reserves of 15,146 Bboe, according to Offshore-mag.

With this alliance, BP will put hands on the most promising and not exlored region in the world. According to Greenpeace spokesman Ben Stewart, "BP is the last company that should be operating there, that is why last year the government of Greenland refused to grant concessions to BP". Of course the tragedy in Mexican Bay, caused by BP is still in our minds. Non-efficient technologies, lack of adequate response actions led to the catastrophe and this could happen again. According to, "the risks brought about by exploring oil and gas reserves in the Arctic are higher than anywhere else."

Mike Childs, FoE's head of climate change, said: "BP, a number of years ago, were positioning themselves to be the greenest of the oil companies, promising to go 'beyond petroleum'. This latest move positions them quite nicely as environmental villain number one, given the huge impact they had in the Gulf of Mexico as well. According to The Environmentalist, the oil giant "cannot be trusted" to drill oil in difficult waters, and any oil spill would be "completely catastrophic". Many experts also suppose that the Arctic shouldn't be touched as it's one ot the few pristine environtents we have left. The only thing we can do is to protect it from any fossil fuel extraction.

Moreover, Russia has no legal basis for hadling cases of environmental damage, as noted Vladimir Chuprov, member of Russian Greenpeace department. He also recalled the accident in Kerch Strait in the Black Sea in 2007, when two thousand tons of fuel oil had been spilled out. The oil spill in the Arctic would be much more harmful. Meanwhile, Rosneft had reported 7,526 cases of leakage of oil from its pipelines by 2009 year.

Konstantin Simonov, CEO of National Energy Security Fund believes ecologist indignation to be premature. The development in the Kara Sea will start in 5 years at best. At this moment the area needs to be explored first. "Environmental risks of exploration are much lower than the risks of production", — says Simonov. He also supposes that the best solution is not to prevent the joint venture of Rosneft and BP, but to try to agree on cooperation with the companies to hold an additional exploration to study the influence of the offshore industry on the environment.

Ksenia Dzha

Author: Ksenia Dzhalagonia

Tags: Russian oil Rosneft Ecology   

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