Self-Motivation
David Goggins
Former Navy Seal
Career Development
Bryan Cranston
Actor
Critical Thinking
Liv Boeree
International Poker Champion
Emotional Intelligence
Amaryllis Fox
Former CIA Clandestine Operative
Management
Chris Hadfield
Retired Canadian Astronaut & Author
Learn
from the world's big
thinkers
Start Learning

Russian company accidentally spills 20,000 tons of oil into Arctic river

It's one of the nation's worst oil spills on record.

Diesel spill in the Siberian city of Norilsk.

Greenpeace Russia
  • The accident occurred in the Siberian city of Norilsk.
  • The company said thawing permafrost caused a fuel tank to collapse.
  • Thawing permafrost poses a major threat to Russia's oil industry, which is the world's third largest.

Russian President Vladimir Putin recently declared a state of emergency after an industrial accident spilled more than 20,000 tons of diesel into the Arctic environment.

The accident occurred when a fuel tank collapsed at a power plant on May 29 in the Siberian city of Norilsk, located 1,800 miles northeast of Moscow. At least 17,000 tons of diesel fuel spilled into the Ambarnaya River, turning it crimson, while another 6,000 tons leaked into the soil.

Greenpeace Russia said it's the "first accident of such a scale in the Arctic," comparing it to the Exxon Valdez oil spill off the coast of Alaska in 1989. That accident spilled 39,000 tons of fuel into the Pacific Ocean.

On Thursday, Russian officials said the leak had been contained with booms placed in the river.

"We have stopped the spread of the petroleum products," a spokesperson for the task-force in charge of the clean-up said. "They are contained in all directions, they are not going anywhere now."

Although the spill is contained, the accident likely caused long-term damage to the environment.

Greenpeace Russia

"The incident led to catastrophic consequences, and we will be seeing the repercussions for years to come," Sergey Verkhovets, coordinator of Arctic projects for WWF Russia, said in a statement. "We are talking about dead fish, polluted plumage of birds and poisoned animals."

Greenpeace said the clean-up won't do much good:

"The booms that were set up will only collect an insignificant part of the pollution, so we can assert that almost all of the diesel fuel will remain in the environment."

Norilsk Nickel, the owner of the power plant, said the fuel tank collapsed because of "abnormally mild temperatures" in the permafrost.

Alexei Knizhnikov, a leader with the Russian arm of the World Wildlife Fund, said that while climate change is affecting the nation's permafrost, the company could've prevented the accident if it had followed proper protocol. Russian law requires companies to install containment structures around fuel reservoirs.

"A lot of the blame lies with the company," Knizhnikov said.

During a teleconference on Wednesday, Putin criticized a Norilsk Nickel manager over the company's handling of the accident.

"Why did government agencies find out about this only after two days?" Putin asked. "Are we going to find out about emergencies from social media now?"

Norilsk Nickel president Vladimir Potanin said the company would pay the costs of cleaning up the skill, estimated to be $146 million. At least one worker at the power plant has so far been arrested. He's charged with violating environmental regulations and faces up to five years in prison.

How climate change threatens Russian oil

Russia, the world's fourth-largest emitter of greenhouse gases, is especially vulnerable to the effects of climate change. The nation is warming two and a half times faster than the rest of the planet, and in recent years it's suffered costly floods and wildfires.

Thawing permafrost in Siberian regions poses a major threat to Russia's oil industry, which is the world's third largest. One key reason, as evidenced by last week's accident, is that melting permafrost jeopardizes the structural integrity of oil-field infrastructure.

Of course, when oil infrastructure is jeopardized, so is the environment. That's why Greenpeace Russia is calling for increased environmental regulations and unscheduled audits of oil producers in the nation's Arctic region.

"Environmental control should be strengthened, and the operation of facilities should be under special control to prevent accidents, especially in the conditions of melting permafrost due to global climate change," the organization said in a statement.

LIVE EVENT | Radical innovation: Unlocking the future of human invention

Innovation in manufacturing has crawled since the 1950s. That's about to speed up.

Big Think LIVE

Add event to calendar

AppleGoogleOffice 365OutlookOutlook.comYahoo


Keep reading Show less

NASA's idea for making food from thin air just became a reality — it could feed billions

Here's why you might eat greenhouse gases in the future.

Jordane Mathieu on Unsplash
Technology & Innovation
  • The company's protein powder, "Solein," is similar in form and taste to wheat flour.
  • Based on a concept developed by NASA, the product has wide potential as a carbon-neutral source of protein.
  • The man-made "meat" industry just got even more interesting.
Keep reading Show less

Navy SEALs: How to build a warrior mindset

SEAL training is the ultimate test of both mental and physical strength.

Videos
  • The fact that U.S. Navy SEALs endure very rigorous training before entering the field is common knowledge, but just what happens at those facilities is less often discussed. In this video, former SEALs Brent Gleeson, David Goggins, and Eric Greitens (as well as authors Jesse Itzler and Jamie Wheal) talk about how the 18-month program is designed to build elite, disciplined operatives with immense mental toughness and resilience.
  • Wheal dives into the cutting-edge technology and science that the navy uses to prepare these individuals. Itzler shares his experience meeting and briefly living with Goggins (who was also an Army Ranger) and the things he learned about pushing past perceived limits.
  • Goggins dives into why you should leave your comfort zone, introduces the 40 percent rule, and explains why the biggest battle we all face is the one in our own minds. "Usually whatever's in front of you isn't as big as you make it out to be," says the SEAL turned motivational speaker. "We start to make these very small things enormous because we allow our minds to take control and go away from us. We have to regain control of our mind."
Keep reading Show less

How COVID-19 will change the way we design our homes

Pandemic-inspired housing innovation will collide with techno-acceleration.

Maja Hitij/Getty Images
Coronavirus
COVID-19 is confounding planning for basic human needs, including shelter.
Keep reading Show less
Scroll down to load more…
Quantcast