Headlines: Russia and Arctic Oil Exploration – An Accident Waiting to Happen

October 19, 2013 – Russia is the third largest producer of crude oil on the planet. They are also the source of the largest number of oil spills each year. And now they are drilling for oil in the Arctic Ocean basin.

Here are some interesting facts about Russia’s oil record.

Gazprom is one of two Russian companies with drilling rights in the Arctic Ocean. This company in 2012 reported 2,626 oil pipeline leaks. That was down from 2011 when they reported 3,257. The year 2011 also saw the company lose the Kolskaya maritime oil rig off the Siberian coast in the Sea of Okhotsk. Two weeks ago the company announced that it was “on track” to start producing oil from the Prirazlomnoye Arctic oil project before year end. It was this drilling platform that Greenpeace protestors commandeered. The protestors who were arrested have been charged with piracy. The company on the other hand continues to disregard what most other oil companies would consider standard safety practices. In fact its oil exploration rigs in the Arctic still appear to be vulnerable in the event of an emergency with the closest response vessels as much as three days away should an oil spill occur.

Rosneft is described as Russia’s leading petroleum company. State controlled, to date, Rosneft has the worst record for oil spills of any Russian producer. For example the company was responsible for 75% (2,727) of all oil spills in just one producing region, the Khanty-Mansiisk autonomous district, in 2011. Since then the company has achieved a 20% reduction in the number of spills, hardly a stellar record for managing its drilling and pipeline infrastructure.

Russia continues to lead the world in oil pipeline breaks. Why? Because the country has an aging oil infrastructure and lax regulation of the industry. Back in June of this year Russia’s President, Vladimir Putin, pledged to invest $43 billion U.S. to improve Russian infrastructure. This included investments in roads and railways but said little about pipelines. But see for yourself from the image below.  This is a picture of a pipeline crossing permafrost being subjected to the stresses of changing climate. It seems accelerating permafrost thaws are wreaking havoc with Siberian-laid pipelines. Now apply what you see here to Russia’s current activity in the Arctic Ocean and we can truly say, “Moscow, you have a problem!”


Russia's aging oil pipeline infrastructure

Len Rosen lives in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. He is a researcher and writer who has a fascination with science and technology. He is married with a daughter who works in radio, and a miniature red poodle who is his daily companion on walks of discovery. More...


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