Oil spot size of Abkhazia
19/05/2010 11:42
Irakli Tskitishvili
Experts' Club

On April 20th 2010 there was an accident on the oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico which was located 210 km south-east of New Orleans (Louisiana, US). 11 persons died. The entire coastline and the Gulf of Mexico were covered by a thick layer of oil. Every day 5 000 barrels of oil is being spilt into the water. Environmentalists have already named this catastrophe as "oil Chernobyl".

To better understand consequences of the accident we need to say more about the region where it occurred. State of Louisiana is the largest US state that produces sea products. Turnover of this sphere is 2.4 billion dollars. Additional billion is going into the state budget through amateur fishing. The coastline of the Gulf of Mexico is a place where there are national nature reserves.

On April 22nd, after the 36-hour fire oil drilling machine sank and as a result of this giant oil spill appeared. American insurance companies estimated damage into 10 billion dollar. Company British Petroleum that operated the oil rig started to issue compensations to fishermen. Compensation sum for each fisherman amounts to 5 000 dollars.

Oil is leaking into the sea at the depth of 1.5 km where there is complete darkness and there are underwater currents. And that makes it harder to carry out works to block the leakage. Americans understood the depth of the problem and 13 000 specialists and volunteers went to the coastline to help. Around 460 ships are at the place of the accident. Tens of aircrafts are participating in the elimination process. The US government is ready to transfer 17 000 workers of the coast guard in case of necessity.

Besides the fact that oil leak caused quite a serious ecological disaster it also seriously affecting tourist and resort infrastructure of the coastline.

The US president Barack Obama categorically prohibited drilling works of the ocean shelf which made oil people angry. Despite the damage that was inflicted upon the Gulf of Mexico because of their activities management of the British Petroleum protests Obama's decision and believes that prohibition to conduct drilling works of the shelf is the same as the US refusing to carry out a space program immediately after the first unsuccessful attempt. This statement means that drilling works on the shelf deep in the ocean is a novelty even for such country as the US.

This disaster made many specialists think. It also caused concern about Shtokman field in the Arctic. As specialists suggest in case of repetition of this accident in the Arctic the disaster will be of a bigger scale as there are not natural conditions to carry out proper elimination works.

Against the background of the "oil Chernobyl" we are especially interested in processes that are taking place in Georgia, namely on the Georgian coastline. As you know on December 24th 2009 Russian company Rosneft and collaborationist government of Abkhazia signed an agreement according to which the Russian company is given the right to conduct geological and research works with consequent production of oil on the Black Sea shelf in the Abkhazian section of the Georgian waters. Works are planned 11-12 km off the Abkhazian coast, off Tuapse on the depth of 800 meters. 780 million rubles are allotted from the Abkhazian budget for cleaning equipment. And this itself means that danger of ecological disaster is calculated. Rosneft will carry out geological and research works on the territory of 3.9 km2. For this the Russian company intends to invest 15 billion rubles but not in the Abkhazian budget but in fees of its invited specialists and other technical necessities. According to preliminary calculations of the Russian side, reserves amount to approximately 270 million tons of conditional oil.

In this context it is very interesting to know opinions of specialists. In the view of head of the laboratory of the Shirshov Institute of Oceanology of Russian Academy of Science all fields in the eastern part of the Black Sea are only potential and it is based on geophysical data. Geophysics only shows that there are certain so-called traps and to determine what they contain - oil, water or gas - is possible only after the drilling.

Kucheruk's opinion is shared by Director General of the National Energy Security Fund of Russia Konstantin Simonov. He says that reserves of the shelves of the Black Sea are not so large but increase of oil prices increases attractiveness of even small reserves.

These are the conditions where Abkhazians have to protect their interests of developing the resort coastline. Nobody knows yet for sure that there is something like oil in the Black Sea but they are already ready to start its production and surpass the Arab countries with levels of its production. It is interesting that attitude of the Abkhazian population is ambiguous. Some of them are really concerned about possible catastrophe but others blindly trust "patriotism" of leaders of the separatist regime.

The disaster that happened in the Gulf of Mexico is another serious argument for those who are categorically against this adventure. Imagine for a minute that something like the American catastrophe happens off the Abkhazian shores. The Black Sea is quite small for such disasters. In about two or three weeks it can be completely covered by a thick layer of oil. Abkhazian territory few kilometers from the sea would practically become a centre of the world catastrophe and for years to come there could be no living creatures. The catastrophe will cause immeasurable damage to Georgia, Russia and Turkey. Even if we turn a blind eye to an ecological catastrophe how fast would be Russia able to start elimination works? Will Russia be able to reimburse damage to its neighbours if even the US struggles with it?

According to the Russian scientist Kucheruk until rules are being followed everything will be all right. "But nobody knows if rules are to be followed. There is everything possible on the territory of the former Soviet Union – everything due to irresponsibleness and disorderliness" – says Kucheruk.

According to Russian political scientist Mikhail Chernov Soviet geological inspection discovered oil long time ago but for various reasons oil production was not started. Oil was in abundance in the Soviet Union and there was no need to jeopardize beautiful Abkhazian resorts.

So what has changed after that? Does nobody need Abkhazian resorts? The Club of Experts many times stressed that construction of high-class resort strip in Sochi would be followed by attempts on the Russian part to prevent development of equally high-class resort strip in Abkhazia. Russia knows perfectly well that it cannot appropriate Abkhazia and therefore is trying to get the maximum until it has possibility to do so. Pollution of Abkhazia does not constitute a problem for Russia as they can always bring the puppet authorities of Abkhazia down a peg or two and go for people. Their fate is the hands of Russians right now, isn't it?

With this regard the circumstance that part of Abkhazians realizes who they are dealing with gives hope. Leader of the opposition Raul Khajimba already openly states his negative position towards the Russian project. He believes that oil production works can become a catalyst for ecological disaster and brings the catastrophe that happened in the Gulf of Mexico as an argument.

Hopefully, residents of Abkhazia will support those who are thinking logically and will treat with responsibility ecosystem of this beautiful region of Georgia and will not allow realization of aggressive plans of Russia - Russia that only cares for oil and gas. But they evaluate lives of people according to political necessity as it happens in the North Caucasus. Hopefully, Abkhazians would not want one day to wake up and see only "black gold" around them. As this "gold" would not mean anything for them. We want to hope that sensible part of Abkhazian society will try to prevent this adventure from happening in order to avoid a situation when one day, "by accident" only an oil spot is left of Abkhazia.

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