Sakhalin II oil and gas development project - Offshore activities

Critically endangered Gray whale Eschrictius robustus. rel=
Critically endangered Gray whale Eschrictius robustus.
© IFAW - / R. Sobol

Russian roulette for whales

Shell has agreed to move its offshore pipeline, which moves actual construction outside of the designated feeding area, although risks still remain. WWF is still pushing for a proper analysis of alternative platform locations - why were alternatives considered only for the pipeline? The lack of a strategic environmental assessment is coming home in these design problems.
Shell has acknowledged that the platform design is one that they inherited from the previous operator. The world's whale experts have also noted that potential environmental impacts such as oil spills were not considered in the selection of the platform location. Biodiversity has had no say in this decision, it is driven purely by cost and schedules. Shell's explanation is:

"Relocation would reduce total economic hydrocarbon recovery from the field and would result in substantially increased costs - running into hundreds of millions of dollars - and significant delays in bringing the field on-stream." (PA-B briefing paper)

  • Shell went ahead with installing its concrete platform base in July 2005. At this time it was still in discussion with the panel of whale experts regarding noise mitigation. Shell decided to ignore its own previous noise limit of 120dB and caused noise levels over 140dB, (decibels are a logarithmic scale).
  • Shell also installed the platform in zero visibility conditions, meaning it was not possible to use observers to try and avoid collisions or assess impact on whale behaviour. Shell is not even able to report if they met their own criteria for low impact on whales as their monitoring was not adequate.
  • Shell still hasn’t been able to explain how it would clean up an oil spill in ice conditions. The company is not even able to model winter oil spills, let alone demonstrate how it would respond. There are no proven techniques that would constitute a comprehensive oil spill response strategy. Shell is determined to use a critical habitat as a testing ground.

A human figure can just be seen in the fog / ©: WWF Russia
The fog conditions in Sakhalin have meant near to zero visibility.
© WWF Russia
 Where are all the SEAs? Project finance and Strategic Environmental Assessment of major oil and ... / ©: WWF
Where are all the SEAs? Project finance and Strategic Environmental Assessment of major oil and gas developments (PDF 1.3MB)

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