Главная Securing environmental safety when developing oil and gas resources of the Barents Sea shelf
Securing environmental safety when developing oil and gas resources of the Barents Sea shelf Печать E-mail


1 Murmansk Marine Biological Institute RAS, Russia 2Polar Research Institute of Marine Fisheries and Oceanography, Russia
3Akvaplan-niva AS, Norway, 4Statoil, Norway

Both in Russia and Norway the laws on environmental protection expresses the same concern for taking care of the natural environment, to monitor the possible negative impacts from human activity and control the discharges and disturbance from these activities.

The Federal Law of the Russian Federation "On environmental protection" defines the environmental safety as the "state of protectability of natural environment and vitally important interests of man against possible negative influence of different types of activity, emergency incidents, natural disasters and their consequences" (Chapter 1. General Provisions).

The "Conception of sustainable development of the Arctic zone of the Russian Federation" (section 3.4. "Securing environmental safety") supplements the aforementioned tasks with terrorism prevention, which is attached a great deal of importance nowadays.

In Norway the Pollution Act (§ 1) states: The purpose of this law is to protect the enviroment against pollution, and to reduce existing pollution. It is to reduce the amounts of waste generated and to promote a better handling of waste material. The law is ment to secure environmental quality, and making sure that pollution and waste does not lead to damage of health, or to reduction of the reproductive capacity of nature

Among major tasks, which are to be solved in order to secure the environmental safety, are the following:
• Building up a system of monitoring over the state of the Arctic environment and pollution including studies on transboundary transport of contaminants in this region;
• Studies on influence of the arctic natural environment on man's life, construction and maintenance of different facilities for economic activity and transport communications;
• Defining stable, predictable and nondiscriminatory conditions for economic activities and environmental constraints in the Arctic for all actors;
• Arrangement of conditions for natural rebuilding of biological resources, protection of flora and fauna, landscape zones and ecosystems of the Arctic;
• Strengthening security measures under the conditions of the arctic zone, prevention of accidents at facilities of the fuel and energy complex and other sites that may have negative impacts on the vulnerable environment of the Arctic.

The following restrictions can be suggested as general criteria for rational decisionmaking in order to secure a balanced functioning of nature, economy and population in the Arctic:
• no economic activity in the environmentally vulnerable Arctic can be justified if benefits from it are less than the damage it causes;
• damage to environment, population and economy in the Arctic zone (including shelf areas) should be as slight as could really be taking into account existing socioeconomic factors and established standards.

Two important principles of environmental safety come out from the aforementioned general criteria:

• environmental safety should be considered as a system of measures securing the conservation of arctic ecosystems, as a principle of nature management and as a guarantee of successful transition to sustainable development;
• Environmental safety is an important condition for conservation of marine ecosystem health within the limits accepted by all stakeholders.
Let's discuss main environmental safety issues in view of the development of oil and gas resources on shelf. As a system, environmental safety can be secured by a complex of measures based on an appropriate understanding and forecasting of its various interconnected aspects:
• environmental and geographical: type of a marine water body, remoteness of production sites and transport areas, depth conditions, specificity of distribution of valuable living resources over time and space, possible juxtapositions of potential effects and habitats of biota, background pollution levels of the sea, etc.;
• hydro meteorological (climatic): variability of wind and current conditions, occurrence or absence of seasonal ice cover and icebergs, temperature range, etc.;
• resources: type of produced raw material (oil, gas, gas condensate), volumes and terms of exploitation of hydrocarbon reserves, geography of supplies, etc.;
• technical: level of design and engineering solutions, including controlling and blocking of environmentally dangerous situations; availability of appropriate forces and facilities to effectively respond to oil spills (including those in remote areas) such as booms, vessels, models, sorbents, etc., taking into consideration polar night conditions, occurrence of ice cover and storms;
• technological: way of production of raw material, preparation for transporting (pipelines, tankers, storage sites), processing (at sea, on land), disposal of waste material, etc.;
• legal: environmental regulation, legislative base, environmental control system, etc;
• political: favorable political climate, fare partnership, identity of vision of strategies for exploitation of resources, etc.

All the enumerated aspects of environmental safety have a universal character but their concrete realization depends on a definite project, the history and geography of its development, results achieved, and an up-to-date understanding of unresolved questions.

The Shtokman project develops slowly, which is quite understandable in view of its unique character, international importance, and as a consequence, a whole range of unresolved technical, economic, financial, and organization questions both in Russia and on a world's energy market scale. Over the last 15 years, many aspects of environmental safety on this project have been discussed at dozens of conferences, meetings and in various papers. All this allows concentrating attention in this report only on those new things that have been done in the sphere of ecology (geoecology) recently. At the same time the authors consider it necessary to emphasize the obligation of several measures that illustrate general principles cited above.

As the changing situation around the Shtokman projects shows, the most typical issues for today are: consideration of natural variability of ecosystems (both abiotic factors and biota); the fact that most technical and technological decisions on the project have never been tested before; lack of a coherent system, and even fragmentariness, of environmental evaluation of different stages and parts of the project; absence of a clear and efficient environmental monitoring procedure and an emergency response plan; strategic, environmentally friendly and equitable combination of different types of activities within the Barents Sea shelf; practical internalization of all aspects of the project's development.

The complexity of solutions to all current problems is redoubled by that they have to be found in a constantly changing situation (climate dynamics, state of biological resources, technical progress, nature conservation policies and practices of oil and gas companies and controlling authorities, global energy strategy, etc.). Let's discuss these issues one after another.

Modern climate dynamics demonstrates a clear trend towards warming. Causes of this trend are controversial and scenarios are too one-sided and politicized. Meanwhile, scientific rationality obliges us to be cautious and rest on a complex of factors and possible consequences. A fundamentally important aspect of the modern climate variability in the Arctic is its unpredictability. Irregular alternation of different types of conditions with great amplitude of oscillation of environmental parameters can only complicate planning and realization of any activity on the shelf. Presently scientists can not confidently assert that the climate change is not a simple transition from one glaciation to another, and that melting sea ice won't desalt the World Ocean to an extent that a feedback snaps into action and cooling begins. Any climatic trend reflects the situation post factum and does not have forecasting potential. A strongly anomalous winter may have the potential to reverse an averaged climatic trend. For practical work it's important to know the situation here and now and for future outlook - the scope of anomalous fluctuations. There is no surprise in that forecasting assessments of natural variability in catches of major commercial species for 2005-2015 make up to 100 per cent for the region in question (399,000 tonnes to 639,000 tonnes). This is a consequence of inter-annual variability of the ecosystem. Existing uncertainties require using precautionary approach to planning and realization of any activity in the Barents Sea. Searching for a science-based compromise between short-term and long-term economic benefits and interests in this region of all nature-users is an essential task.

Scientific organizations, which conduct investigations under governmental contracts and on requests from oil and gas companies, reduce the level of ecologic uncertainty. This work is carried out in the frames of engineering and ecological investigations, EIA procedures, and monitoring operations. In 2005-2006, MMBI, PINRO, Akvaplan-niva, and Statoil did much in this direction. Among this are engineering and ecologic investigations for different variants of a subsea gas pipeline route from the Shtokman deposit to Pechenga and Vidyaevo, studies in Baidaratskaya Guba in the Kara Sea, EIAs of marine part of the Shtokman project, evaluations of ecologic consequences of marine seismic surveys, ecologic substantiation of the construction of a gas liquefaction plant in Vidyaevo and oil terminals in the Kola Bay, etc. Particularly worthy of note are Norwegian ecological studies within the Sngfhvit deposit development and the construction of a gas liquifying plant on Melkoya.

The results of these activities suggest the following conclusions: development of oil and gas resources of the Barents Sea is ecologically acceptable and compatible with fishing. The basis of this acceptability and compatibility is joint environmentally friendly technologies for production and transport of hydrocarbons together with responsibility and environmental consciousness of all stakeholders. At the same time the intensification of petroleum-related activities on the Barents Sea shelf reveals a range of issues that need a careful working over and demonstrate both common aspects for Russia and Norway and specific ones for each country. The most negative factor is an absence of real practice of large joint Russian-Norwegian environmental activities. This is true for both the Shtokman and the Snohvit projects. As a result, many questions of technical and normative character (composition and volume of work to be done on engineering and ecologic investigations, EIAs, and monitoring) remain unresolved. This impedes the development of a single basis for environmental safety in the region.

There is a great need in comprehensive application of international documents related to the development of oil and gas resources on shelf into regional practices (OSPAR Convention, EIA in a transboundary aspect, strategic environmental assessment, integrated resources management plan over the whole Barents Sea Large Marine Ecosystem, combination of local and regional EIAs and monitoring procedures). Of particular importance are joint fundamental studies on biodiversity, sustainability and health of ecosystems as a basis for evaluation of their environmental capacity. These studies, together with more applied tasks (modeling, protection of shores against oil spills, petroleum chemistry, biological sampling procedures, etc.), are aimed at gradual obtaining practically significant results, which create the necessary prerequisites for environmentally safe development in the Arctic. Such studies must be fostered by oil companies and intensified. For Russia there still remains an issue of a lack of consistency in realization of programs on ecological evaluation of oil and gas projects (changing of customers, fickleness of environmental requirements to the volume and nomenclature of work, financial limits, etc.).

Challenging natural conditions of the arctic shelf (ice-drift and icebergs, billowy bottom relief, vulnerability of biota) stimulate searching and introducing more reliable technologies for production and transport of hydrocarbons. The way forward is the minimization of risk of environmental pollution using technologies of zero discharges into the sea and onshore oil and gas processing. For example, production processes at the Sn0hvit deposit will occur on seabed (subsea pumping-in methods), while hydrocarbons will be pipelined to the shore by multiphase flow method. Moreover, subsea installations will partially process raw material in order to decrease the risk of separation (blocking in pipelines). All this will decrease accidental risks by avoiding contacts with ice (icebergs, ice-drift), and rough climatic conditions during winter. To secure the interests of fishermen, all subsea installations shall by definition be over-trawlable. At the same time, a multiphase transportation of gas in subsea pipelines at a distance of more than 500 km under changing environmental conditions is still a complicated and untested technology. Transfer of all principal operations at the Shtokman deposit to the seabed and on land is very progressive from ecological point of view. However, more routine environmental problems related to the construction of a gas liquifying plant in Vidyaevo and a consequent increase in tanker navigation along the shoreline, maneuvers in narrows, loadings at berth, etc. are also to be solved.

One of the key elements of the environmental safety system is monitoring. Despite a great deal of attention to this problem, there are no principle changes. Nowadays the system of environmental monitoring on the Barents Sea shelf, which must include both coordinated and regular observations, is quite ineffective. Some of its elements, including studies on the shelf interior, bioresources, ecosystem components, contamination at exploration and production sites, and environmental evaluation and substantiation of oil and gas projects, often fail to meet criteria of spatial and temporal optimality, methodical stringency and regularity. Russian and Norwegian specialists have done great efforts towards drawing together principle approaches to monitoring programs (see Proceedings of Oil and Gas of Arctic Shelf Conference, 2004).

It has been agreed on that monitoring of natural environment and biota at the sites of development of shelf deposits must be carried out at least each three years. Sampling of sediments and bottom animals (benthos) for contaminants should form the basis of these observations. However, due to an absence of real production activities on the Russian shelf, monitoring at the expense of oil and gas companies is practically not carried out. The Russian state monitoring system keeps stagnating. That's why one of the most pressing issues for today is the development and realization of an optimal monitoring system which would combine regional monitoring covering the whole area of potential influence of oil and gas activities (per se the whole southern part of the Barents Sea) and local monitoring at the most ecologically vulnerable sites, such as prospecting, production and transport areas, spawning grounds of valuable species, especially protected areas, frontal zones of different water masses, marginal areas.

During last years the state system of environmental monitoring is realised exceptionally as a part of government marine biocenoses monitoring (system of regular observation on population distribution and marine bioresources reproduction, as well as over their habitat), put into practice in close coordination with Norway. Experience and knowledge, accumulated while this cooperation, can lay the basis of complete ecological monitoring of the Barents Sea.

The system of maritime monitoring under current economic conditions should also take account of customers' interests. Nowadays, these could actually be oil companies and single authorities. However, there is a need to restore the Russian state monitoring system. Otherwise, procedures for assessing the state and dynamics of the climate change at the national level, which are a natural basis for any kind of maritime activities (both state and non-state), would lack information support. Without regular replenishment of databases of common use, local systems of environmental control will not be able to provide an effective decision-making process towards sustainable development of a definite region. Nowadays different users need only separate information fragments. Their combination into a unified system is a hard task due to multiplicity, lack of transparency, and non-optimality of existing practices of collection, storage and exchange of data. These contradictions could only be resolved by way of building of observation network, which would be successive towards the previous one and adapted to a new strategy of economic development of each particular shelf, and appropriate to the principles of sustainable development (a balance of development and conservation). This hard task could be resolved at three thirds by way of regulating the use of existing resources (financial, technical, administrative, and scientific) of interested authorities and countries. The rest one fourth should be aimed at technical re-equipment of the marine observation system (first of all, enlarging the scope for remote methods: satellite sensing and buoy measurements).

A challenging problem is the development of an effective service for oil spill response, especially in ice, although Russian-Norwegian cooperation in this sphere demonstrates good progress.

Securing stable, predictable, and equal conditions for economic activity and environmental restrictions for different actors on the Barents Sea shelf takes on special significance in view of increased pressure on the marine ecosystem (LME). Potential conflicts between the petroleum industry, fisheries, navy, ecologists, tourism, and maritime transport are inevitable. The challenge is how to minimize and predict them. The only possible way is developing strategic plans for integrated management of LMEs, including the Barents Sea LME, and functional zoning of water and coastal areas.

The Norwegian side went its part of the common path in this direction: in 2005-2006 an expert group representing all interested Norwegian authorities conducted an assessment of influence of major activities on Norwegian waters of the Barents Sea-Lofoten area. Attempts have been made to integrate these sectoral assessments, and three different future scenarios for the Barents Sea have been formulated. Conclusions have been made that long-term transport of pollutants (external sources) and a possible lack of coordination at the international level, between Russia and Norway, pose a serious threat to the regional ecosystem. The overall conclusion, too cautious because of gaps in knowledge, states that the Barents Sea can be conserved for the future as one of the world's most clean, productive and healthy ecosystems.

In February 2006, the conclusions of the assessment were presented to, and discussed by, the Russian Ministry of Natural Resources in Moscow but resulted in no follow-up from the Russian side. Meanwhile, integrated management plan for the Barents Sea LME, single by nature, is very important in order to include environmental factors into the decision-making process (along with financial, economic, technical, etc.), which is a binding condition for sustainable development in the region. The methodology for inter-sectoral regional EIA or strategic environmental assessment could form a basis for integrated management. At the same time, three ecosystem functions: emission (pollution), extraction of resources, and occupation and use of territories should be given an equal appraisal. When accepting the priority of conservation of renewable biological resources, one should avoid making assessments of negative consequences too one-sided. It can be stated to a certain degree of relativity that fish resources are managed nowadays in a sustainable manner, though there are ecological problems in fish industry (catch in excess of scientifically recommended volume, illegal catch, impact of trawl trade on bottom biocenoses, etc.).

. According to estimates of a group of Norwegian and Russian experts at PINRO and Institute of Marine Research (Bergen) (Aglen et al. 2005. Fisheries Science, 6), 2,164,000 tonnes of cod were fished beyond scientifically recommended values (25 per cent increase of TAC) over 1984-2004. If illegal and unreported fisheries are included (which make almost one third of quotas according to some estimations), the situation becomes better unsustainable than sustainable. The fact that the threat is realized by specialists of both countries and its politicalization is counterproductive while positive trends in realization of a precautionary approach to fisheries practices intensify, gives some optimism.

In conclusion, there are several general requirements to securing environmental safety when developing oil and gas resources of the Barents Sea shelf:

1. Coordinated and systematic approach (unity and interconnection of components)
2. Adherence to scientific analysis and prognoses
3. Internationalization of environmental activities along the whole way: from a project to monitoring and control (including that of compliance to project decisions made by a body of experts)
4. Acceptance by the stakeholders of strategic view of the place and role of a definite marine ecosystem or shelf in the sustainable development of the region.

When realizing these general principles it's expedient to use aims and procedures of EIA: sustainability, ecosystem perspective, precautionary approach, adaptive and integrated management, regional flexibility, and partnership.

There is a hope that with the beginning of joint international activities, production culture (in the broadest sense of the word) will be the major guarantee of environmental safety in the region. Scientific and economic organizations of both countries have built up a great deal of expertise in partnership, which by no means will help solve one of the major current issues in developing the Arctic - its oil and gas resources.
If all aforementioned in our report approaches are realized, we can expect formation of conditions ensuring ecological safety while oil and gas resources of the Barents Sea shelf developmg, that would be economically useful and would let us further sea using, as we used to do it before.



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