Monitoring of the aquatic environment around the Prirazlomnoye field shows no divergence from natural status

Researchers from the Knipovich Polar Research Institute of Marine Fisheries and Oceanography (PINRO) have recently completed comprehensive investigations on aquatic conditions around the Prirazlomnaya platform (located in the Pechora Sea) — part of yearly investigations undertaken by Gazprom Neft.

Researchers’ reports indicate that key hydrological and hydro-chemical indicators on the status of the aquatic environment around the field, including visibility and salinity, as well as oxygen and hydrogen levels, and the presence of inorganic phosphorus and other elements, are consistent with natural status.

Ecological monitoring at the Prirazlomnoye field (covering an area of 744 square kilometres), has been initiated by Gazpromneft-Shelf LLC, and is being undertaken by FREKOM, a company specialising in ecological and industrial safety, with a number of leading specialist research institutions also being engaged in its research. Researchers also examined the shores of the Vaigach, Dolgy and Matveev islands, as well as the mainland coast of the Pechora Sea, the traditional breeding grounds of the Atlantic walrus, listed in the Red Data Book of the Russian Federation (a state document established for documenting rare and endangered species). Recent results show no major fluctuations in the migration and distribution of walruses at the Pechora Sea following the commencement of oil production on the Arctic Shelf.

General Director of FREKOM, Valentin Minasyan, commented: “All key indicators are consistent with natural status, and the presence of pollutants was found to be considerably lower than levels permitted under commercial fishing standards, confirming that this project is showing no negative impact on the environment.”

Gazpromneft-Shelf General Director Genady Lubin commented: “We have always made clear that minimising environmental impacts is one of the key principles underpinning operations at the Prirazlomnoye field. Data from ecological investigations demonstrate that oil production on the Arctic Shelf can be undertaken without any harm to the natural environment.”

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The Prirazlomnoye oilfield is located in the Pechora Sea, 60 kilometres from the shore. Recoverable reserves are in the order of 70 million tonnes.

The Prirazlomnoye platform has been constructed to ensure maximum safety in oil production. With the walls of the platform base some three metres thick, the drilling of wells within this will ensure full isolation from the surrounding environment. Oil storage on the platform involves a “wet” reservoir storage system, which prevents the ingress of oxygen and thus avoids the creation of an environment in which explosions can occur.

A “zero discharge” system integrated into the platform will also prevent the discharge of any production or drilling waste into the sea. These will, instead, be injected into a special reinjection well or, if necessary, collected in containers and transferred to the shore for recycling. Oil is loaded onto tankers using a complex direct-loading system, running diagonally from the south—west to the north—east corners of the platform. Oil shipments can only begin, however, when 30 vital conditions occur concurrently. The offloading line for pumping oil to tankers is equipped with an emergency shutdown system, with a maximum seven-second response time. Water intake is controlled through a fish-protection system similar to the operation of louvered blinds.

A programme promoting the recovery of marine bio-resources was continued throughout 2014, through which some 30,000 Atlantic salmon fry were released into the natural reservoir of the Northern Fishing Basin. All rig crews are fully briefed to take extra care in the event of any marine wildlife appearing during manoeuvres. To reduce noise disturbance helicopter pilots also fly over the sea a height that keeps things comfortable for its inhabitants.