Gazprom may not be as familiar to you as BP or Exxon, but they’re just as capable of making history with a catastrophic oil spill. The Russian oil giant is the first company to start oil production in the Arctic after their failed attempt last year in addition to Shell’s year of drilling mishaps.
Greenpeace sent the Arctic Sunrise and international activists to Gazprom’s platform, the Prirazlomnaya, since the company’s drilling plans in the region threaten three surrounding nature reserves and their inhabitants with a major oil spill. Russian authorities seized 30 international activists and the ship, the Arctic Sunrise, without communication for more than 100 hours now after the activists attempted a peaceful protest against oil drilling by Gazprom. Russia granted amnesty to the activists and all 30 were released in December.
Gazprom is Russia’s biggest company and is almost totally stateowned providing nearly 10 percent of Russia’s entire gross domestic product. In April, Gazprom announced a partnership with Shell to drill in the Arctic meaning Shells’ shareholders just signed up for the inevitable cost of an epic Arctic oil spill.
Here’s why an Arctic oil spill is not likely, it’s inevitable.
9. Gazprom’s oil platofrm, the Prirazlomnaya, is hardly the pinnacle of modern engineering. The company constructed it using pieces of decommissioned North Sea rigs and sat rusting in a Murmansk shipyard for years.
8. Gazprom’s platform will operate year-round in the remote Pechora Sea, where ice is present for nearly two-thirds of the year and temperatures can drop as low as -50°C.
7. Much of the response equipment will live 1000 kilometers away in Murmansk, meaning the company would not be able to mount a serious accident response for days.
6. Gazprom was supposed to start producing oil from the Arctic in 2011, but due to the enormous technical challenges posed by drilling in the region and leaks about concerns with safety, the company delayed the project.
5. When Gazprom finally put Prirazlomnaya in place for drilling in the Barents Sea in 2011, subcontractors working on its construction were quoted in the press as declaring it “94.2 percent ready for use.” However an anonymous source involved in the construction told Nord-News agency that in reality the platform was no more than 50 percent ready. Gazprom refused to publish any of the platform’s safety documentation, its environmental impact assessment or the oil spill response plan for the project.
4. Just weeks after being positioned on site, the Prirazlomnaya’s rig safety ladder was torn off in a summer storm and a new video shows what appears to be a safety vessel crashing into the platform. Industry sources now suggest that the platform may not meet Russian offshore operating standards yet Gazprom has started exploratory drilling regardless.
3. In December 2011, 53 people died when the Kolskaya jack-up rig capsized during towing. Before this incident, a unit of Gazprom used the rig at a gas production site and had regularly applied cuts in budget and security measures.
2. Gazprom claims it “pays great attention to preventive environmental protection measures, but according to official plans its worst-case scenario is only for an oil spill of around 10,000 tons or 73,000 barrels. The Deepwater Horizon disaster spewed nearly 5 million barrels into the Gulf of Mexico while the Prirazlomnaya itself can store up to 650,000 barrels of oil.
1. National parks and wildlife sanctuaries like Nenetsky and Vaygach surround the Prirazlomnoye oil field, home to protected and endangered species such as the Atlantic walrus and polar bears. Gazprom’s summary oil spill response plan suggests an oil spill would not only impact wildlife habitats, but also Indigenous Peoples who rely on the Pechora Sea for fishing and hunting.
WATCH exclusive footage below of Gazprom’s accident-prone rig.