Lack of information on Arctic oil spill

Oil spill at the Trebs field in the Russian Arctic. Photo from Scanex.

Little information from the oil companies and no independent observation of the cleanup efforts are making it difficult to know the extent of damage from the Trebs field oil spill in the Russian Arctic, according to the World Wildlife Fund.


Satellite images provided by Scanex show that the spill covers over 40,000 square metres, but little else is known, says Vadim Krasnopolsky at the WWF’s Barents Sea regional office in Murmansk to the BarentsObserver.  

“The companies do not have to inform people how big the spill is if it doesn’t affect people directly,” Krasnopolsky says.

Because of a lack of communication from the oil companies, it is not possible to know how long the cleanup will take or the extent of the pollution.

Much of the oil has been absorbed by snow, and that has helped to minimize the ecological damage. However, the snow needs to be removed from the area before it melts with the spring thaw, which usually begins around the end of May. Krasnopolsky says the snow removal is “quite difficult work” and most of it needs to be done by hand.

Once the snow is removed, the oil in it can be burned as fuel in heating plants, or purified and sold later.

The Russian oil companies, Lukoil and Bashneft, have put out boons to encircle the spill and are making efforts to clean the site, Krasnopolsky explains. But the problem is that there is no possible way to check the quality of the cleanup job, because independent observers have not been allowed to check the rural site so far.

The WWF did propose that an independent observer go to the site to have a look once the cleanup is complete.

“Accidents will happen. No technology is 100 per cent safe,” Krasnopolsky says. “But we always have to be sure the companies have the necessary capacity to deal with the spills.”