Authorities in the Komi Republic in Northwestern Russia have declared an emergency after crude oil was found to be leaking from a pipeline in a remote area close to the border with the Nenets Autonomous District. The leak, on a pipeline operated by Russian oil producer Lukoil, which connects the Oshskoye Oil Field in Nenets to a storage facility in Komi, is believed to have leaked about seven tons of crude oil before the leak was discovered, with three tons spreading out over the Arctic tundra and about four tons entering the Kolva River. The spill was eventually discovered when the oil travelled downstream to the town of Usinsk, tens of kilometres downstream of the original leak.
Cleaning up the spill is predicted to be very difficult, as the booms which are generally used to contain oil spills on waterways are effectively useless, due to floating ice on the Kolva River, with oil having reached about 30 km downstream of Usinsk. Lukoil is reported to have deployed a team of about 150 workers to tackle the spill, who are reported to be using sorbents (absorbent materials) to try to remove oil from the river.
The Investigative Committee for the Arkhangelsk Region and Nenets Autonomous District has opened a criminal investigation into the spill, which Greenpeace Russia suspects may have been caused by poor maintenance, with metal pipelines, which are slowly corroded by crude oil, being used beyond their due replacement dates.
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