On September 17, NCOC, the operator of the Kashagan Project, conducted public hearings within the 2012 environmental action plan.
POST FACTUM PRESENTATION
The plan presented at the hearings is aimed to ensure safety during the ongoing construction and drilling at the sea facilities. To recall, previously, companies used to agree such plans in Astana, in the Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP), going over the heads of the local authorities and public. This experience has shown the negative side of the system. Under the disguise of environmental measures, companies used to assign actions designated for process needs rather than enhancement of environmental safety. Thanks to NGOs of Atyrau, the only ones to represent the local public, for their efforts to persuade government to review the plans here, not in Astana. At last, it is the people of Atyrau who breathe the polluted air, not the ministers in the capital city.
The recent corruption scandals in the ministry also contributed to the change in the procedure: in February this year, financial police reported that corruption in MEP was flourishing at the highest levels and recently, the ex-chairman of the Ministry’s Environmental Regulation and Control Committee Sagynbek MUTASHEV was included in the international wanted list. So, NCOC happened to be the first to present its plan at the local level. Yet, the first step is always the hardest. Apparently due to lack of proper publicising the public was represented by professional ecologists and officials only. And the addressing managers obviously were not ready for sharp questions. But, they were lucky: they weren’t questioned too much, because the operations declared in the presented plan, had started at the beginning of this year and 55% of the budget amounting 2.5bn tenge had been spent to date.
- They are already working. There is no use of questioning them now, said a famous ecologist.
NCOC manager Robert HURST presented the Environmental Action Plan for 2012 to the publicThe idea of injecting drilling muds back to the formation caused the biggest concerns. The project has been trusted to MI Drilling Fluids.
Looking back to 2004, this technology was criticized by ecologists of Atyrau at the public hearings of preliminary environmental impact assessment of Kashagan Project. At the time, the ecologist Mouftakh Diarov warned that the option of injecting fluids into formation had been selected just to reduce expenses of Agip, the then project operator. These fluids include heavy metals (quicksilver, lead, cadmium, copper, zinc, iron, nickel) and poisonous biocides which are used to sterilize wellbores, but have the killing effect on all the living organisms.
Given that the probability of stronger earthquakes is much higher in future than today, injected toxic materials may leak into the sea through the weakest layers to poison water environment.
LET US START NOW TO SEE WHAT HAPPENS
At the hearings, a NCOC representative told that injection of drilling muds into the formation has been approved by state bodies at both local and country levels. In May, Environmental Regulation and Control Committee of MEP issued a positive resolution. The company made no secret of that injection would allow minimizing company’s efforts to transport drilling mud on shore, and hereby reduce costs.
The Head of the Oblast Environmental Department Yerbol KUANOV wondered about the reason the formation research funding was not considered in the plan. He also asked about mud’s possible behavior during injection process and if subsoil structures would accept it. In response NCOC employees began explaining the whole process in details, stating the research would take place during the experimental injection.
NGOs failed to obtain answers concerning the fate of the Caspian seals, and complained about the closed details of the research British experts now conducting upon the consortium’s order. They also expressed their concerns over the truthfulness of the scarce information that the client company regularly provides to the public. NCOC employees replied that the company had sent the research results to the MEP, Environmental Department, the Oblast Department for Use of Nature and Natural Resources and the Aarhus Center. But, the latter stated they never received any materials.
To date, the population of seals has decreased from million down to 100,000.
PLENTY OF PLANS IN ROW
An environmental NGO voiced its awareness about the soil contamination emerged in the result of fuel spill by an Agip contractor – Bonatti. The Chief Ecologist of NCOC Ruslan ADIYEV confirmed the fact and stated that MEP would soon conduct a repeated audit of the case.
Soon, on September 21, NCOC will hold public hearings on environmental action plan for 2013. Tengizchevroil will hold its similar hearings in October.
By Laura SULEIMENOVA