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Last month Greenpeace protestors attempted to board the Prirazlomnove oil platform to hang a protest banner against Arctic Sea oil drilling. In a report from February this year, titled “Point of No Return”, Greenpeace identified new oil drilling in the Arctic seas as one of the biggest threats to the environment that is currently ignored by world governments.
“Oil companies plan to take advantage of melting sea ice ... to produce up to 8 million barrels a day of oil and gas. The drilling would add 520 million tons of CO2 a year to global emissions by 2020.”
The platform is the flagship project for Russia’s multibillion dollar expansion into Arctic waters so it is not surprising that they reacted strongly to Greenpeace’s protest; although the world media has been shocked by the dubious charges of piracy facing the nearly 30 people arrested, and the potential 15 year sentence that such charges carry.
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With the attention of the world media, Greenpeace now has the perfect platform to reveal the true extent of Russia’s horrendous impact on the environment, how their oil industry is already polluting Arctic waters, and how it is only likely to get worse if regulation is not improved.
Greenpeace Russia has said that whilst Russia only produces 12% of the world’s oil, it is responsible for nearly 50% of the world’s oil spills; as many as 20,000 oil spills a year leaking up to 30 million barrels. Of these 30 million barrels of spilled oil products, Greenpeace estimates that around 4 million barrels leak into the Arctic seas via river tributaries each year; as idea of the scale, the 2010 BP Gulf of Mexico oil spill leaked about 4.9 million barrels.
Whilst the exact extent of the spills impact on the environment is unknown, Greenpeace claims that it is proof of an inadequate culture of safety within the Russian oil industry, creating a lot of concern about the health of the Arctic as the country aggressively pushes to become one of the first powers to drill in open Arctic waters.
Huge amounts of oil are flushed into the rivers and Arctic waters as snow melts after winter. (Greenpeace)
So far, only two Russian oil companies have been granted government approval to drill in Arctic waters, but both have notoriously poor accident records.
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Gazprom Neft Shelf LLC, is responsible for Russia’s worst ever offshore oil spill after a floating rig sank in the Sea of Okhotsk. Its sustainability report noted that in 2012 the company suffered 2,626 pipeline leaks, and in 2011 that number was 3,257.
Rosneft has recently been named the country’s worst environmental polluter after 2,727 oil spills were reported in 2011, in just one province.
By. Charles Kennedy of Oilprice.com
Charles is a writer for Oilprice.com