Norilsk – more oil tanks could collapse | Polarjournal
Representatives of the Russian environmental control service Rosprirodnadzor inspect the tank plant in Norilsk on site. (Photo:

The Russian Environmental Control Authority is calling on Nornickel and its subsidiary Norilsk Taymyr Energy Company to close its large fuel storage and empty the storage tanks. The Rosprirodnadzor environmental control service issued a warning after more than 21,000 tonnes of diesel oil spilled into the local Taymyr tundra last week.

More than 20,000 tons of diesel oil poured out of a damaged tank in Norilsk. Gazprom Neft is one of the companies helping with the clean-up. (Photo: Gazprom Neft)

According to Rosprirodnadzor,the environmental disaster occurred after the concrete foundation of the oil tank began to sink. The tank floor then separated from its walls, causing the diesel oil to spill into the surrounding area.

Fear of further leaks

The fuel storage is owned by Norilsk-Taymyr Energy Company, a subsidiary of the mining and metallurgy company Nornickel. It was built in 1985. According to those responsible, the tanks were last inspected and repaired in 2017-2018. There are another four similar storage tanks on site, three of which are in operation. These are now under special observation and are an important issue for regional environmental inspectors.

In a letter to energy company Norilsk Taymyr, the environmental inspector now warns that the remaining storage tanks could suffer the same fate as the first collapsed tank. These together hold more than 60,000 tonnes of diesel oil.

The control authority proposes that the company pump all diesel fuel out of the three tanks and carefully examine the technical condition of the plants.

Climate change

The Russian Arctic has been one of the fastest warming regions in the world for many years, and climate change in the area is becoming increasingly dramatic today. Changes are taking place, including a rapid decline in permafrost, which poses major risks to settlements, industry and infrastructure in the region.

Parts of northern Siberia, including the Taymyr Peninsula, are among the worst affected areas. Average winter temperatures have increased by about five degrees Celsius in recent decades, and the permafrost layer has shrunk by about 10 cm annually.

In areas with permafrost soils, there are hundreds of storage tanks that can cause dangerous situations when the subsoil is thawing. (Photo: Commersant)

Hundreds of oil reservoirs

The deposits in Norilsk hold only a tiny fraction of the quantities of oil and oil products stored in the Russian Arctic. The lion’s share of Russian oil production is produced in the north of the country, and the deposits, pipelines and terminals cover a vast region.

It is feared that in the near future there could soon be similar oil spills in many other places in the Arctic like in Norilsk.

Heiner Kubny, PolarJournal

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