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Russia's new Arctic oil platforms unsafe, says expert

Aaron Jansen illustration

According to Norway's Barents Observer, at an international conference on Arctic logistics in Murmansk recently, a Russian expert criticized the safety of new offshore oil platforms built for the country's Arctic and voiced concerns about the lack of response infrastructure on the increasingly active Northern Sea Route.

Mikhail Grigoriev, an expert working for a science unit of the Russian Security Council, singled out two semi-submersible rigs built for the Shtokman project in the Barents Sea for being unsafe. He said that together they have about 700 registered flaws.

”When and how the flaws are to be eliminated, is incomprehensible,” Rossiiskaya Gazeta quotes Grigoriev as saying.

Because of delays to the Shtokman project, the rigs were transferred to the Russian Far East by Gazprom subsidiary Gazflot. They are slated to begin drilling off Sakhalin in 2012, with production expected to begin in the second half of the year.

Grigoriev also expressed concerns about the lack of infrastructure to serve increasing traffic along the Russian Arctic's Northern Sea Route, echoing some findings of a 2011 risk analysis by Lloyd's of London.

One author of that report, Charles Emmerson, commented to Barents Observer that safe operation is critical to future Arctic development. "If something goes wrong in the north it will impact not just one company -- but an entire industry," he said.

Read more, here.