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UpstreamOnline: Shell-led Sakhalin II: Pipeline work ‘wreaked environmental damage’

RUSSIAN pipeline contractor Starstroi, a joint venture between the country’s Lukoil-
Neftegazstroi and Italy’s Saipem, has denied that it inflicted irreparable damage to the environment of Sakhalin Island during building of onshore oil and gas pipelines for the Shell-led Sakhalin 2 development, writes Vladimir Afanasiev.

According to a September report from Russia’s technical compliance watchdog
Rostekhnadzor, a copy of which was obtained by Upstream, Starstroi committed various environmental violations during the construction work.

These included shutting the flows of various springs and small rivers, dumping soil and polluted waters into nearby forests and failing to take protection measures against erosion and potential mud slides, the report said.

Rostekhnadzor deputy head Oleg Mitvol levelled these accusations against operating company Sakhalin Energy this week. He told reporters in Moscow that “Sakhalin Energy has a licence to produce oil and gas on Sakhalin but it has no right to kill the nature”. Mitvol said the company must halt work immediately and its licences have to be withdrawn.

Starstroi deputy general director Vladimir Kukharev said that the pipeline is still under construction, and the company will take measures to restore normal flows of springs and rivers immediately after the pipe is buried in the ground.

However, Greenpeace energy co-ordinator in Moscow, Ivan Blokov, said that the blocking of fish-spawning rivers for one season inflicts such large damage to the fish population that it could take “dozens of years” to restore it.

Blokov emphasised that the majority of the Sakhalin population depends on fishing as its main source of income.

Kukharev has acknowledged that the company agrees with Rostekhnadzor on “most points”, but it insists that any potential mud slides will not rupture the pipeline because it will be in the ground at a depth of between five and 10 metres.

Starstroi has to lay two pipelines — one for oil and the other one for gas — over about 800 kilometres from the north to the south of the island.

Kukharev said that certain deviations from the initial engineering plan are possible because the construction “has been very challenging, given that the contractor has had to lay the pipeline across 20 tectonic breaks, 120 zones prone to mud slides and over 1000 springs and rivers”.

Earlier this week, Russia’s Natural Resources Ministry accused Sakhalin Energy of failing to address these challenges in its development plan endorsed by Russian scientists in 2003.

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