This is the face of Russia’s oil country, an inhospitable zone that experts say represents the world’s worst ecological oil catastrophe. The source: a decommissioned well whose rusty screws ooze with oil.
Environmentalists estimate at least 1 percent of Russia’s annual oil production, or 5 million tons, is spilled every year.
That is equivalent to one Deepwater Horizon-scale leak about every two months.
The poor condition of it’s infrastructure and a harsh climate combine to cause catastrophe in the world’s largest oil producing country, responsible for 13 percent of global output.
Russian oil spills go undetected because most happen in the unpopulated areas in the cold Russian tundra, caused either by ruptured pipes or leakage from decommissioned wells.
Weather conditions in most oil provinces are brutal, with temperatures routinely dropping below minus 40 degrees Celsius (minus 40 Fahrenheit) in winter. That makes pipelines brittle and prone to rupture unless they are regularly replaced and their condition monitored.
Oil seeping through rusty pipelines and old wells, contaminates soil, kills all plants that grow on it and destroys habitats for mammals and birds. Half a million tons every year get into rivers that flow into the Arctic Ocean, the government says, upsetting the delicate environmental balance in those waters.
Ever since the Soviet Empire, Russia has been plagued with environmental disasters. From the nuclear horrors of Chernobyl in Ukraine to lethal chemical waste in the Russian city of Dzerzhinsk and paper mill pollution seeping into Siberia’s Lake Baikal, which holds one-fifth of the world’s supply of fresh water.
Unlike the Golf Coast, the spills in Russia are more the result of a drip of leaked crude than a sudden explosion. But they’re more numerous than in any other oil producing nation including Nigeria. Combined they spill far more than anywhere else in the world.
No hard figures on the scope of oil spills in Russia are available, but Greenpeace estimates that at least 5 million tons leak every year in a country producing about 500 million tons a year.
Valery Bratenkov works as a foreman at oil fields outside Usinsk.
After hours, he is with a local environmental group. Bratenkov used to point out to his bosses that oil spills often happen under their noses and asked them to repair the pipelines. “They were offended and said that costs too much money.”
Ivan Blokov, campaign director at Greenpeace Russia, who studies oil spills, said the situation in Komi is replicated across Russia’s oil-producing regions, which stretch from the Black Sea in the southwest to the Chinese border in Russia’s Far East.
At least 400 tons leaked from a new pipeline in two separate accidents in Russia’s Far East last year, according to media reports and oil companies. Transneft’s pipeline that brings Russian oil from Eastern Siberia to China was put into operation just months before the two spills happened.
It’s sickening to see that the companies responsible for these spills do not even care. We all live on this planet together, we have to take care of it. If everyone is inconsiderate and only worries about the dollar, you can bet your ass we wont be part of existence for that much longer.