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Gazpromneft-Shelf finances environmental monitoring programme for the Atlantic walrus

A team of researchers from the Knipovich Polar Research Institute of Marine Fisheries and Oceanography (PINRO) has completed fieldwork on ecological monitoring around the Prirazlomnoye platform — an area potentially at risk from oil production. Scientists undertook investigations into the coastal areas of the Vaigach, Dolgy, Gulyaevskiye Koshki and Matveev islands as well as the continental coast of 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).

The Atlantic walrus (photo: FOTOBANK)

PINRO specialists also conducted monitoring (including ichthyological exploration)* at nine monitoring stations,** obtaining necessary water, plankton and benthos samples.*** Detailed analysis of all data collected during PINRO fieldwork will be presented in a year-end ecological report, in May 2015. The purpose of this monitoring is to determine environmental conditions, and to obtain accurate and timely information indicating the current status of the ecosystem.

Ecological monitoring at the Prirazlomnoye field (which runs to a total 744 square kilometres), has been initiated by Gazpromneft-Shelf LLC, and is being undertaken by FREKOM, a company specialising in ecological and industrial safety, engaging leading specialist institutions in its research.

The Prirazlomnoye field, Pechora Sea

FREKOM Ltd General Director Valentin Minasyan advises that preliminary results of the research 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. “There has been no major change in the number of animals in comparison with the last two years of monitoring; the walrus’s breeding grounds remain the Dolgy and Matveev islands, as they were before the platform commenced operation. Which confirms the absence of any negative environmental impact from the project.”

Gazpromneft-Shelf General Director Genady Lubin commented: “The results of environmental analysis — including monitoring of the Atlantic walrus in Pechora Sea, in particular — allows us to obtain reliable information on the state of the environment. The Prirazlomnoye platform was designed with the specific conditions of this area in mind, particularly regarding the need to minimise man’s impact on the Arctic natural environment. The results obtained indicate that the project is meeting this objective.”

Notes for editors

* Tests for the presence of marine creatures and sea life.

** Monitoring station — a sampling point for the collection of a range of samples, including environmental samples, ichthyological samples, and investigations into the sea floor.

*** Benthos — organisms living on or in the seabed.

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 operator on the project is Gazprom Neft and the licence holder Gazpromneft-Shelf LLC.

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.

Concurrently with monitoring of the Atlantic walrus, 2014 saw the continuation of a programme promoting the recovery of marine bio-resources, 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.

  • Prirazlomnoye photo gallery