Black Sea oil spill may be 400 times bigger than thought

The oil spill

The oil spill that occurred on August 7 at a terminal near Novorossiysk in the Black Sea may be as much as 400 times larger than officially reported, scientists from the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAN) estimated on Wednesday, citing satellite images.

According to them, the oil may have contaminated an area of 80 square kilometres, while the terminal’s owner, the Caspian Pipeline Consortium (CPC) / Каспийский Tрубопроводный Kонсорциум (КТК), estimated the extent of the leak at 200 square metres.

Scientists from the Space Research Institute and the RAN Institute of Oceanology cite a satellite image taken on the evening of August 8 that shows waters near Novorossiysk. The black patch of oil extends from the coast into the sea 19 km offshore.

The oil spill occurred while crude was being pumped onto the Greek tanker Minerva Symphony. The owner of the terminal said that 12 cubic metres of oil had leaked. The consortium also assured that there was no danger either to residents or to the flora and fauna of the Black Sea.

However, environmentalists from the Russian branch of the international organisation WWF estimate that the oil has reached the shores of national parks and other protected areas.

A video surfaced on social media on Wednesday showing a layer of oil on the water surface at a dolphinarium near Anapa, a Russian resort on the Black Sea coast.

According to the terminal operator, CPC, the cause of the spill was a defect in an integral part of a mooring and transhipment buoy, according to an official media release on August 9. The hydraulic damper was reported to have failed. We do not know the details, but it is possible that the non-functioning damper caused jerks in the pipeline, which were not mitigated (leveled by the damper) and as a result the line itself or its connection was damaged and spilled.

The terminal where the oil spill occurred is an offshore terminal, i.e. on the open sea – CPC Offshore Marine Terminal, from which Kazakh oil is sometimes also delivered to Poland.
However, the cargo spilled on the Minerva Syphony was destined for a customer in Çanakkale in north-western Turkey.

The CPC (Caspian Pipeline Consortium) is a major international project involving Russia, Kazakhstan and the world’s leading oil companies, set up to build and operate a 1511km oil pipeline.

The CPC pipeline system is mainly supplied with oil from the large oil fields of western Kazakhstan, but also from Russian oil producers.

The pipeline terminates at the CPC Marine Terminal, which has no wharves or jetties, and ships are loaded offshore through single point mooring (SPM) buoys.

The shareholders of CPC are: the Russian Federation in 31 % (through Transneft – 24 % and CPC – 7 %); the Republic of Kazakhstan in 20.75 % (KazMunayGaz – 19 % and Kazakhstan Pipeline Ventures LLC – 1. 75 %); Chevron Caspian Pipeline Consortium Company – 15 %, Lukarco BV – 12.5 %, Mobil Caspian Pipeline Company – 7.5 %, Rosneft-Shell Caspian Ventures Limited – 7.5 %, BG Overseas Holding Limited – 2 %, Eni International N.A. N.V. – 2 % and Oryx Caspian Pipeline LLC in 1.75 %.


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