Plan to drain Congo peat bog for oil could release vast amount of carbon

Plan to drain Congo peat bog for oil could release vast amount of carbon

SOURCE: The Guardian DATE: February 28, 2020 SNIP: The world’s largest tropical peatlands could be destroyed if plans go ahead to drill for oil under the Congo basin, according to an investigation that suggests draining the area would release the same amount of carbon dioxide as Japan emits annually. Preserving the Congo’s Cuvette Centrale peatlands, which are the size of England and store 30bn tonnes of carbon, is “absolutely essential” if there is any hope of meeting Paris climate agreement goals, scientists warn. However, this jungle is now the latest frontier for oil exploration, according to an investigation by Global Witness and the European Investigative Collaborations network that questions claims by developers that the oil deposit could contain 359m barrels of oil. The Cuvette Centrale forms part of the Congo basin, which is the world’s second largest tropical forest and one of the most remote areas in the world. This untouched region is waterlogged for most of the year and is an important habitat for endangered forest elephants and lowland gorillas. In 2017 it made headlines after scientists announced the discovery of 145,500 sq km (56,200 sq miles) of peatlands. They estimated it stored the equivalent of three years of global fossil fuel emissions, making it one of the greatest carbon sinks on the planet, according to a paper published in the journal Nature. But in August 2019, a Congolese company called Petroleum Exploration and Production Africa (Pepa) announced there were hundreds of millions of barrels of oil under the Cuvette Centrale. Exploiting this resource would quadruple the country’s oil production and sort out its debt-ridden finances, the company...
Seals, caviar and oil: Caspian Sea faces pollution threat

Seals, caviar and oil: Caspian Sea faces pollution threat

SOURCE: France24 DATE: April 16, 2019 SNIP: Seals waddling along the waterfront were once a common sight in Baku Bay, the Caspian Sea home of Azerbaijan’s capital. Not anymore. Of the more than one million seals which inhabited the shores and islands of the Caspian a century ago fewer than 10 percent remain, and the species has been declared endangered. Azer Garayev, the head of the Azerbaijan Society for the Protection of Animals, says the seals have for decades been suffering from over-hunting and the effects of industrial pollution. In 2003, his group found 750 seal carcasses in just one month. “It was not normal,” but no one looked into the issue, the 57-year-old activist said. “The seal is a sign of all the major environmental problems (in the Caspian).” Bordered by Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Russia and Turkmenistan, the Caspian is the world’s largest inland body of water, about the size of Japan. As well as the seals and other endemic species including Caspian turtles and the famed beluga sturgeon, the sea boasts vast energy reserves, estimated at 50 billion barrels of oil and 300,000 billion cubic metres of natural gas. Pollution from the extraction of that oil and gas, along with declining water levels due to climate change, pose a threat to many species and put the future of the sea itself at risk. [For more on the devastating pollution in the Caspian Sea, see Caspian Sea...
A 14-year-long oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico verges on becoming one of the worst in U.S. history

A 14-year-long oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico verges on becoming one of the worst in U.S. history

SOURCE: Washington Post DATE: October 21, 2018 SNIP: An oil spill that has been quietly leaking millions of barrels into the Gulf of Mexico has gone unplugged for so long that it now verges on becoming one of the worst offshore disasters in U.S. history. Between 300 and 700 barrels of oil per day have been spewing from a site 12 miles off the Louisiana coast since 2004, when an oil-production platform owned by Taylor Energy sank in a mudslide triggered by Hurricane Ivan. Many of the wells have not been capped, and federal officials estimate that the spill could continue through this century. With no fix in sight, the Taylor offshore spill is threatening to overtake BP’s Deepwater Horizon disaster as the largest ever. On Sept. 15, 2004, when Hurricane Ivan unleashed 145 mph winds and waves that topped 70 feet as it roared into the Gulf. Deep underwater, the Category 4 storm shook loose tons of mud and buckled the platform.The avalanche sank the colossal structure and knocked it “170 meters down slope of its original location,” researcher Sarah Josephine Harrison wrote in a postmortem of the incident. More than 620 barrels of crude oil stacked on its deck came tumbling down with it. The sleeves that conducted oil from its wells were mangled and ripped away. A mixture of steel and leaking oil was buried in 150 feet of mud. As oil continues to spoil the Gulf, the Trump administration is proposing the largest expansion of leases for the oil and gas industry, with the potential to open nearly the entire outer continental shelf to offshore...
Two Of The Most Biodiverse Wildlife Parks On Earth Are Now Open To Oil Drilling

Two Of The Most Biodiverse Wildlife Parks On Earth Are Now Open To Oil Drilling

SOURCE: IFLScience and Reuters DATE: July 2, 2018 SNIP: Virunga National Park and Salonga National Park – the home of mountain gorillas, chimpanzees, African forest elephants, and other rare species – could soon be welcoming some new visitors: oil companies. The government of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has confirmed that parts of the Virunga and Salonga National Parks, two UNESCO World Heritage Sites, will be opened up for oil exploration and drilling, Reuters reports. Virunga National Park is the size of a small country, over 7,800 square kilometers (3,000 square miles) in size, and encompasses rich forests, savannas, swamps, lake shores, lava plains, active volcanoes, and glaciated mountains. It is regularly cited as one of the most ecologically diverse places on Earth. It’s home to a quarter of the world’s critically endangered mountain gorillas, along with two other species of great ape, the eastern lowland Grauer’s gorilla, and chimpanzees. It also holds a range of other rare species, such as the Okapi, African Buffalo, Central African lions, and the Congo peacock. Salonga National Park, Africa’s largest, and the world’s second-largest, tropical rainforest reserve is home to an equally dazzling array of environmental features and animals, most notably the bonobo and the African slender-snouted crocodile. The last time oil companies threatened to exploit this part of the Congo Basin, especially in Virunga, it was met with massive opposition from environmental activists. However, the DRC government has consistently defended its right to authorize drilling for oil and gas anywhere in the country and maintained that they are aware of protecting their country’s...
As North Sea Oil Wanes, Removing Abandoned Rigs Stirs Controversy

As North Sea Oil Wanes, Removing Abandoned Rigs Stirs Controversy

SOURCE: Yale E360 DATE: June 26, 2018 SNIP: Two decades ago, the North Sea was one of the world’s largest sources of oil, pumping up 6 million barrels a day. That figure is now down to 1.5 million barrels, and the industry is turning to the task of decommissioning the estimated 600 production platforms in the North Sea. The British sector alone contains 470 of them, along with roughly as many other offshore installations, plus 10,000 kilometers of pipelines and 5,000 wells. The British industry expects to carry out more than 200 decommissions between now and 2025. Many steel rigs will be cut off just below the seabed, and either dragged ashore in one piece or dismantled offshore. A handful of early giant concrete structures, which can weigh as much as 400,000 tons, may have to stay put because there is no way of moving them. The British industry estimates the final bill at $51 billion, though some analysts say it will be double that. Whatever the price, since decommissioning is tax deductible, the cost will be largely born by taxpayers. Are they getting value for their cleanup cash? Will the expenditure even be good for the environment? Some ecologists say no on both counts. [T]here has been a growing debate among marine scientists about whether the cleanup may sometimes do more harm than good. For during their lives of 30-40 years, many of the rigs have turned into valuable marine habitats, providing rare hard structures in a sea whose bed is mostly soft sand and mud. They are surrogate reefs, often occupied by rare species. Linked by ocean...