Russian NGOs say Shtokman project offers no guarantees of environmental safety

Publish date: February 24, 2011

MURMANSK – A group of Russian non-governmental organisations that has studied the project documentation for the Shtokman gas condensate field in the Arctic has concluded that there are no guarantees of environmental safety should development of the field proceed.

A civil society expert group organized by the initiative of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and which included Bellona representatives, completed their work on the project documentation for the Shtokman field’s development.

The public environmental expertise was not completed by deadline because Shtokman Development AG, the company developing the project, did not furnish project documentation in a timely fashion. However, the WWF’s insistence was rewarded. The documents, though late and not complete, were given to the public commission of civil society organisations

The result of the two-month long analysis of the project material culminated in a 100 page document.

“Experts made more than 150 significant notations to the project. We hope that the conclusions will be reason for serious attention to these mistakes,” said Vadim Krasnopolsky, oil and gas project coordinator for WWF Russia.

During pubic discussion of the environmental impact assessment in 2010, we noted that Shtokman Development AG was not striving to introduce changes to the project, even as they accepted the suggestions. Now, having received the results of the civil commission, we counting on the company to change its approach and will work out the project specifically in the environmental impact assessment and submit it again for the state environmental expertise.”

“The environmental impact assessment materials submitted by Shtokman Development AG are extremely underdeveloped and don’t allow for an objective evaluation of the level of environmental impact of the project, and, consequently, don’t guarantee its environmental safety,” said Nina Lesikhina, energy projects coordinator for Bellona Murmansk. “Neglecting such issues at the level of engineering could lead to tragic consequences for nature in the Arctic region. In order to not let such things slip, Shtokman Development must review the results of the environmental assessment of sea installations taking into account the conclusions of the public environmental expertise and send it again for a state environmental expertise,” she said, adding that, “the Federal Service for Supervision of Natural Resources [Rosprirodnazdor], in its turn, must  more carefully and professionally approach the issue of environmental expertises of large scale projects like Shtokman.”

The expert commission listed the most serious oversights of the project with regard to the environmental impact assessment as follows:

  • *Underestimation of the risks of damage to sea pipelines from outside forces;
  • *Neglect of the risks of the presence of gas hydrates in the region of the Shtokman gas condensate field;
  • *The absence of evaluations of possible negative impacts on the ocean ecosystem and living organisms by pollution substances emitted into the atmosphere by ships;
  • *An insufficient quantity and quantity of collected information for the evaluation of the current condition of sea bird in the area affected by the project.
  • *Partial absence of engineering and ecological  investigation in the most important seasons for living organisms;
  • *Incorrect calculations of damage to fish reserves;
  • *The absence of evaluations of acoustic impact on sea mammals and calculations of corresponding financial compensation;
  • *The absence of an evaluation of the risks of a spill of gas condensate and emissions of methane.

“It is necessary to acknowledge that this large-scale international project has a colossal amount of clear environmental loose ends,” said the WWF’s Krasnopolsky. “The stock holders in Shtokman Development AG must be aware of all their responsibility for implementing such hasty decisions. After all we are talking about the fragile ecosystem of the Arctic, which will take decades to restore.”

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