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In Usinsk fish smells like diesel
SAVEPECHORA > Мероприятия и акции
In Usinsk fish smells like diesel  
[17 августа в 15:50]
Writer: Izabella Rosengren 10.5.2018



Caption: Greenpeace members clean up the leak from the oil pipeline in Usinsky region. The organization must often intervene in the situation when Lukoil either only covers the oil with sand or ignore the clean-up. Photo: Denis Sinyakov

In 2010, the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded in the Mexican Gulf. The explosion caused one of the worst oil disasters in the world. In Russia, equal emissions occur twice a year. One of the worst affected places is Usinsk where leaky oil pipes make even the fish stink diesel.
It could be a scene from an optional wilderness movie. An existential desolate protagonist looks out over magical pine forests, like a magnificent tundra, while a fresh wind blends his/her hair. Then you look closer and see that the pine trees are covered in a black puddle and that the small picturesque ponds are rather a viscous pine with a rainbow-shimmering pile on the surface.



Caption: Environmentalists estimate that more than one percent of Russia’ s oil production leaks out every year. According to the State Energy Statistics Agency, there were 11,709 leaks in Russia in 2014. That same year, Canada had more than 150 leaks. Photo: Denis Sinyakov



«The focus is on avoiding new emissions. Russia’ s environmental laws are very strict and the fines are huge. In addition, the company has difficulty in obtaining new licenses, so it is in our interest to avoid an environmental scandal», said Alexei Osipov, who, despite the statement, s not working for Lukoil, but as a journalist for Usinskaja Nov in Usinsk. Picture: Izabella Rosengren

A forgotten disaster

The area around Usinsk is usually called a «forgotten disaster» and «a hidden nightmare» by environmental organizations and it’ s no wonder why. The city was founded in 1966 and is today the center of oil and gas extraction in the Komi region in northern Russia. With extraction, emissions, and according to the Russian state’s hydrometeorology and environmental monitoring service, will leak at least 500,000 tonnes of oil, more than four million barrels, annually in an area largely comprised of the Usa, Kolva and Petjora rivers. These then flow into the ecologically important Barents Sea.
«Oil companies don’ t care to inform local people if emissions/an oil leakage have occurred. Because the fines are so small, they often ignore clean up because it’s more profitable to pay the fine than to replace the pipes. Often, it is the locals themselves who end up responsible for the remediation», said Valentina Semyashkina of the Save Pechora River environmental organization, which since 1989 has worked to pay attention to the emissions in the region.



Caption: At least 500,000 tonnes of oil is believed to leak from oil pipelines in the Komi region in northern Russia. Many wires has not been replaced or repaired since they were built in 1966. Photo: Denis Sinyakov

Facts
Usinsk / Komi
* Usinsk was founded in the 1960s after oil companies found oil in the area. Today, 39,000 people live in the city, most of whom work in the oil industry. The average temperature is -3.4 ° C. Usinsk is located in the Republic of Komi, which has a total of around 900,000 inhabitants.
* Most of the inhabitants of Komi belong to indigenous Komi people who traditionally have been engaged in reindeer herding. Reindeer herding is still a big business, but on decline due to environmental pollution, oil and gas extraction and mining.
Source: climate-data.org and Wikipedia

As a thank you for the (the Komi people) help, nerve and respiratory diseases and cancer has increased significantly among the locals. (<- That sentence is sarcasm.)
The overall estimate of oil spills throughout Russia will rise up to 1.5 million tonnes, which is more than twice as much as the oil spill in Deepwater Horizon׳s explosion in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.
The largest continuous emission in Usinsk occurred in 1994 when around 100,000 tonnes of oil leaked and contaminated an area of several hundred hectares. Although the rivers were contaminated, the fish stank diesel and several people ended up in respiratory breathing problems, the attention was negligible compared to Deepwater Horizon.
- In 1994, the Russian state was in bad shape. In the Soviet Union everything was planned in five-year plans and no one thought about the environment. The area was polluted and if oil had reached the Barents Sea, there would not be any more life left, says Alexei Osipov, a journalist at Usinskaya Nov in Usinsk.



- In Usinsk they don’t care about the emissions. They are not hunters or forest owners. Also, they don’t have rivers and they do not see the emissions in the same way, says Lena Solovjova, a journalist on the 7x7 independent web magazine in the region of Syktyvkar. Picture: Izabella Rosengren



The oil pumps are colorfully painted like playgrounds rather than an oil field. Picture: Izabella Rosengren
According to him (Alexei Osipov), it is only thanks to Lukoil’s oil giant, that it is generally possible to stay in the area today. At the time of the leak, some fifty oil companies used the pipelines and because they could not agree who the fault was they could not decide who would be responsible for the repair and remediation costs. So nobody did anything.
- Nobody took responsibility and everyone blamed at everyone. When Lukoil came here in 1999, they started cleaning the rivers and fields and rebuilding this place, he says.
He knocks out his arms like showing Lukoil’s greatness, which he apparently appreciates, even though he works as a journalist for a seemingly independent newspaper. He points to a snow-covered field that was previously completely drenched with oil, telling that both fish and birds have returned thanks to Lukoil’s exemplary leaning/remediation work.
- Now we can afford to take the environment into account.
By “we’’ he means Lukoil and while he is talking he kicks down an empty PET (plastic) bottle into a ditch.

Diesel tank
Large oilfields are located just 10 minutes drive from the center and the area smells diesel. There are long pipes everywhere that burn excess gas from drilling, also called gas frales. The method is forbidden in most parts of the world because it releases huge amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. It does not seem that Russia has been noticed that.



Caption: Greenpeace members clean up the leak from the oil pipeline in Usinsky region. The organization must often intervene in the situation when Lukoil either only covers the oil with sand or ignore the clean-up. Photo: Denis Sinyakov



Caption: Environmentalists estimate that more than one percent of Russia’s oil production leaks out every year. According to the State Energy Statistics Agency, there were 11,709 leaks in Russia in 2014. That same year, Canada had more than 150 leaks. Photo: Tulio Campregher



Caption: All oil companies in the region maintain their oil in Usinski before it is conveyed to Russia and Europe. Each tank contains 50,000 tons of oil and has been sprinkled on the landscape. Photo: Denis Sinyakov

The leak in 1994 was the largest in a single area, but basically smaller leaks occur every day. And a number of small leaks form a big river. Then, like today, the reasons for leakage are poorly maintained pipes. In many cases, they have never been replaced by new ones since the construction of the 1960s. During the dark arctic winter, oil leaks out of the underground pipes and blends in the melting water when summer comes.
Although organizations such as Greenpeace find leaks all the time, Lukoil denies the extent of the issue. In 2014, for example, Greenpeace identified 201 polluted sites. When they visited the area three months later, many of the sites were still submerged in oil. According to the Guardian, Lukoil claimed that they did not find any oil at 67 of the sites, even though Greenpeace had photo evidence. In the other places, the oil company had cleaned the sites by pouring out sand that would suck the oil from the land.
Also Alexei Osipov thinks the accusations are unreasonable and that Lukoil’s interest does not have an environmental scandal. Unlike Valentina Semyashkina, he thinks the fines are enormous.
The main thing is that no leakage would occur. Russia’s environmental laws are very strict and fines are dense. Besides, after the leak, the company is having difficulty obtaining new licenses.

Lukoil sponsors
In the city, Lukoil’ s presence is clearly visible. In addition to jobs, it sponsors training, building churches and playgrounds, and planting fish in rivers.
Since most Usinks people are working at Lukoil, they are less willing to criticize the company’s environmental impact.
- In Usinsk, they just don’t care. They are not hunters or forest owners. They don’t have any rivers and they do not see leaks in the same way, says Lena Solovyova, an independent 7x7 web site publisher of the regional capital Syktyvkar.



Photo: Ksf Media

She (Lena Solovyova) agrees with newspaper chief Pavel Andrejev who thinks that those living in Usinsk got there for the sake of the oil, and therefore do not criticize the one who 1controls.

- The indigenous people around the world are strongly opposed to the extraction of oil and often protest. They are known to be hot-tempered and usually often get the way they want, he says with a laugh.

He reports that the people of Izhma district made a major lawsuit of Lukoil’s planned oil extraction near the cities in 2014, which allowed the court to ban all oil and gas extraction in the area, referring to the negative effects on the reindeer herding. However, many villages with a less strong civil society have not been as fortunate.
FACTS

* Lukoil was founded in 1991 when three Siberian oil companies were merged into one. Today it’s one of the world’s largest oil companies and operates in more than 40 countries. According to Forbes, the company has made $ 3.1 billion worth of profits so far and has a market value of $ 44 billion.

* On its website, Lukoil has announced plans to extend its production in Komi region from 15.8 million tonnes from 2014 to 21.5 million tonnes by 2019. In 2015, Komi oil was responsible for 5.4% of total oil production. In 2016, Lukoil also announced plans to build a gas plant in Komi, this time at Timan-Petjora to facilitate future oil production.

Source: lukoil.com and forbes.com

source: https://www.hbl.fi/artikel/i-usinsk-stinker-fisken-av-diesel/


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