Russia’s environmental safeguards for the Arctic. Part I

The Arctic plays a very important role in maintaining the environmental balance on the Earth. Due to its importance as the origin of much of the world’s weather patterns and its dynamic and unstable climate processes this region is very important for global environmental security.

The Arctic plays a very important role in maintaining the environmental balance on the Earth. Due to its importance as the origin of much of the world’s weather patterns and its dynamic and unstable climate processes this region is very important for global environmental security. Any disturbance to the ecological balance of the Arctic is fraught with the danger of causing major climate changes to the entire Northern hemisphere and the potential disappearance of the Arctic’s unique biodiversity will seriously damage the stability of all global ecological systems.

Any discussion of the development of the Arctic region cannot be complete without touching upon a range of environmental safety issues. The importance of these issues makes it necessary to introduce a number of special environmental restrictions on commercial activity in the region, to require the use of costly, yet environmentally friendly, technologies and to enforce strict production discipline. Additionally, hefty sums should be injected into the rehabilitation of Arctic territories, which have been environmentally damaged by production activities.

Russia is a pioneer in developing the Arctic region for many reasons and unlike Alaska, Canada, Finland, Greenland, Norway, and Sweden, the Russian Arctic has more densely populated areas. In the Russian Arctic there are at least 46 towns and villages with each town having a population of 5,000 people or more thus environmental protection-related issues are of paramount importance to those living in the Russian Arctic and for the Russian Federation.

Speaking at the international Arctic forum in Moscow in September 2010, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin pledged that the implementation of each and every industrial project in the Arctic will comply with environmental demands, something he said is more important than the barrels of oil and cubic meters of gas we can obtain in the region. Prime Minister Putin also said that cleaning up areas where waste had been disposed in the Arctic was high on the agenda of the United Russia party’s inter-regional conference in Yekaterinburg in June 2011 which Vladimir Putin attended. Speaking at the gathering, he specifically promised to oversee a total clean-up of the areas and utilize waste products including thousands of fuel and lubricant barrels which have been piled up near stations, military bases and northern villages for decades.

Right now, many environmentalists express concern over the early beginning of the extraction of hydrocarbons in the Arctic, a process that may be in line with all environmental norms thanks to the use of high technologies. Suffice it to mention the environmentally friendly Snohvit project that Norway is implementing in the Barents Sea, where the sub-aquatic wells are located at a depth of 350 meters to prevent carbon dioxide from re-entering the atmosphere.

Ensuring environmental security will also be a top priority for those developing the Prirazlomnoye oil field in the Pechora Sea of Russia.  All operations will be carried out by a single platform operating in the harsh icy conditions of the Arctic shelf. The development of the oil field will see no industrial waste and petroleum gas obtained by the platform will be used in its gas turbine generators. 

The special Prirazlomnaya off-shore ice-resistant platform is made of steel structures with concrete used for ensuring local stability, which will make it possible to prevent possible oil spills, explained energy expert Vladimir Vovk from Russia’s Gazprom. He said that the state-of-the-art platform is unique and has characteristics which make it of great importance in developing the oil fields in the Pechora Sea.

The platform weighs more than 400,000 tons and can provide storage for up to 120 tons of oil. He spoke highly of the platform’s sophisticated characteristics, which will contribute to the facility’s continuous operation in bad weather conditions.  The platform measures 100 meters wide and is 100 meters long and will hopefully have the capacity of bringing up 7.7 million tons of oil per year.