In the north-east of Komi, on May 11, the authorities imposed a regime of emergency due to an oil spill on the border with the Nenets Autonomous Okrug (NAO). Iridescent film was found on the surface of the Kolva river near the fourth bridge. The official data consider an oil gathering main of one of Oshsky Oil Field's wells to be the source of pollution. LUKOIL-Komi confirmed this. Employees of the Priroda (‘nature’) Emergency and Rescue Organization took up the accident containment. Operational services got to the place to install the booms in Kolva. The Usinsk Prosecutor's Office organized a check, and the authorities meanwhile warned the population about the ban to use water from the river. This is the second case over the last seven months when a regime of emergency is imposed in Usinsk due to an oil spill. Read 7x7’s review to learn what environmentalists fear and how to avoid such accidents in the future.
What do environmentalists know about the oil spill that occurred in the Kolva river on May 11?
Head of the Save Pechora Committee Eco-Movement Ivan Ivanov:
"Almost 100% that all the oil did not go away after the autumn spill [happened in October 2020]: some settled on the banks, some froze into the ice, plus there could be something else in other places. In fact, Kolva is an oil-gathering river, along which there are many oil wells and pipelines of LUKOIL, and if anything is spilled there, it goes into Kolva and then flows into Usa [a river in the Komi Republic, the right and largest confluent of the Pechora river]. Therefore, it is difficult to speak confidently about the accident that they [LUKOIL] reported. As always, we do not believe the company."
Coordinator of the Nam Zdes’ Zhit’ (‘we are the ones to live here’) All-Russian Eco-Movement, Deputy Head of the Save Pechora Committee Alexander Sladkoshtiev:
"So far, there is not much information, and it is being checked. But there are videos from bridges on the Kolva river that show iridescent film floating on it and that the ice contaminated with oil. [Officially] we were informed that there was an accident at Oshsky Oil Field's, which is located both in the Nenets Autonomous Okrug and in the Komi Republic. Let the competent authorities deal with the polluters. LUKOIL-Komi is the main subsurface user in this region. The company produces the lion's share of oil here and transports it through pipelines to the European Russia. There are concerns that there was a loss of piping integrity at Kharyaginsky Oil Field's. There is a large oil pipeline that transports commercial oil. A similar accident occurred in 1994, when this pipeline lost its integrity and there was the largest onshore accident with a spill of oil and petroleum products. Then they got to Kolva, Usa, and the Pechora river. About 200 thousand tons of oil were spilled. Its number is much smaller in this case. But these accidents are constantly happening, from year to year. Three weeks ago, oil was found in the Ukhta river, now — in Kolva."
What similarities do the oil spills in October 2020 and in the Kolva river on May 11, 2021, share?
"The situations are incomparable. We do not know the real situation both that autumn and now. As I understand it, booms (floating fences, the purpose of which is to contain the spread of petroleum products) cannot be or are difficult to put now, because there are still ice floes. In October, there was no ice drift. They reported from Kolva that the oil was coming to the first bridge, and [it] was expected in the village of Kolva the next day. The Priroda Emergency and Rescue Organization is recruiting local people for post-accident clean-up. And it seems that Head of LUKOIL [Vagit] Alekperov is going there."
"All these accidents are similar. There is a negative impact on the entire aquatic ecosystem: fish, aquatic plants, coastal flora and fauna. Ducks, swans, teals, and other birds are migrating now. They use open rivers to rest on their flights, nest, and raise their young. And all the fences are going to be filled with oil. There is a huge chance that migratory birds will be contaminated with oil. All this is very dangerous and can lead to the death of fish, birds, and contamination of water that people use for drinking purposes. We have data that the regime of emergency was imposed to ventilate the possible use of water from the Kolva, Usa, and Pechora rivers for drinking. The inhabitants of the villages along the banks of the rivers live thanks to them, use the water for drinking and economic purposes, graze cattle on water-meadows, and fish. This is prohibited with a regime of emergency being imposed. There has been a negative impact on local residents for a long time. We have already talked about this many times, and neither the authorities of the Komi Republic, nor LUKOIL-Komi, nor the federal authorities listen to us."
How can such accidents be prevented? What is required for this?
"Any oil spill is some kind of violation. Either when designing or determining the initial data, or pipes deterioration (I consider this to be a corruption component when the Federal Service for Environmental, Technological and Nuclear Oversight of Russia extends the service life of the oil pipeline), or negligence when someone overlooked something. A natural disaster is unlikely, just like someone's intentional or unintentional actions. An oil spill is always either a mistake, or a violation. To solve the problem of oil spills, we need incentives from the state — real fines that will encourage oil producers to put production in order, investigations. LUKOIL has adapted to work in the way the state allows it to."
"It is possible to prevent all this by monitoring the pollution, the operability of the equipment used to the transport oil and petroleum products. These accidents occur regularly in spring. They occur because, as the locals say, the frost "goes into the ground". Cooled melt-water gets into the soil and, perhaps, somehow reduces the temperature of the transported products. The oil cools down, and there are wax fractions, the pipeline capacity decreases, and pressure in the pipe gets increased in order to deliver the planned amount of oil. This can lead to a loss of piping integrity. They are not getting any newer, and the probability of an accident increases."