In the last six months alone, two high-profile environmental disasters have happened in Russia at once. In May, the largest known oil spill in the Russian Arctic occurred near Norilsk. More than 20 thousand tons of diesel fuel has spilled into the environment. Rosprirodnadzor has estimated the damage to nature at 150 billion rubles.
In late September, surfers from Kamchatka complained about water pollution in the area of Khalaktyrsky beach. They posted a video to show a huge dark patch in the Pacific Ocean, and a separate video from a beach strewn with marine life. Scientists said that almost all living organisms died in the place of pollution. In the first samples of sea and river water and biomaterials, experts found components of oil fractions, fatty acids, esters and other compounds.
Important Stories examined all the available data on oil spills in Russia in recent years and talked to experts. Large-scale accidents occur in the country every year, they cause irreparable damage to nature and human health. But these accidents are not known and not spoken about.
Thousands of oil spills a year
17,171 accidents with oil spills occurred at the enterprises of the fuel and energy complex in 2019
This means that oil accidents happen in Russia every half hour.
“If you come, for example, to the Samotlor field in the Khanty-Mansiysk District, you will see huge spills: there are oil rivers and oil lakes. It's just that everyone found out about Norilsk. Bloggers helped, information helped. About Kamchatka too: the surfer rode a board and felt something. And if you hadn't skated? I assure you, then no one would have known about this accident in Avacha Bay, ”says Tatiana Puzanova, a senior researcher at the Faculty of Geography of Moscow State University.
According to the Ministry of Energy, in 2019, more than 17 thousand accidents with oil spills occurred at the enterprises of the fuel and energy complex. Of these, 10.5 thousand cases were at oil pipelines. This means that oil accidents happen in Russia every half hour.
According to the Ministry of Emergency Situations and the Ministry of Natural Resources, at least 55 thousand hectares of land in the country are contaminated with oil products. An oil slick of this size could cover half of Moscow (within the Moscow Ring Road, that is, without taking into account the territories attached to it).
DIRECTOR FOR PROGRAMS OF THE RUSSIAN BRANCH OF GREENPEACE
“Several million tons of oil are spilled into the environment in Russia every year. Such volumes are comparable only with Nigeria, where accidents are associated mainly with vandalism, and not with corrosion. "
And this is only official data: experts say that in fact there are dozens of times more leaks. Official statistics are very poor, and companies hide spills from government agencies. Even within one department, information on pollution varies greatly. (If you want to read more about what is happening with the collection of data on oil spills in Russia, click on the "Factcheck" button at the top of the page).
Greenpeace expert Ivan Blokov estimates that several million tons of oil are spilled into the environment in Russia every year. "In this, Russia is comparable only to Nigeria, where accidents are associated mainly with vandalism, and not with corrosion, as in Russia," Blokov said.
Why does oil spill
90% of pipeline accidents occur due to pipe corrosion
(according to the Ministry of Energy)
According to the Ministry of Energy, 90% of accidents associated with oil spills from pipeline ruptures are due to pipe corrosion. The companies still operate many of the oil field pipelines that they inherited from the Soviet era. As the General Prosecutor's Office notes, their wear reaches 70%. If nothing is changed, wear and tear will grow every year along with the number of oil spills.
“We have an unspoken agreement that oil companies do not invest in accident prevention, infrastructure, and liquidation of consequences - and thus reduce the cost of oil. And it is becoming more competitive in the international market. This is beneficial to the state, ”confirms Ivan Ivanov, chairman of the Pechora Rescue Committee.
Greenpeace experts say the same: Russian oil companies have no motivation to change outdated production pipes on time, it is cheaper for them to pay compensation for damage. Although the problem of obsolete oil pipelines could be solved in less than five years if oil companies spent 15-20% of their net profit on replacing them, which totaled 1.5 trillion rubles in 2019. Companies do not spend money on environmental protection, and as a result, the profitability of Russian oil companies is significantly higher than that of foreign competitors.
At the same time, for every million tons of oil produced in Russia, there are several times more spills than in other countries. If in 2018 in Russia there were 20 accidents for each million tons of oil produced, then, for example, the American company ExxonMobil - 3, the British-Dutch Royal Dutch Shell - 2 accidents. That is, if we take into account the scale of production, accidents at Russian enterprises happen much more often than at foreign companies.