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Consultants give environmental approval to Sakhalin II project

International consultants have ruled that the Sakhalin II oil and gas project off Russia’s Pacific Coast is in line with national and international environmental laws, Russian gas giant Gazprom said.

AEA Technology, an independent consultant to potential lenders to the Sakhalin II project, has produced a final report on the commitments of project operator Sakhalin Energy, the press office of Gazprom, the operator’s main shareholder, announced on Tuesday. The AEA report states: “As far as implementation of the plans are concerned there is a high level of compliance for most of the Project’s facilities/assets.”

The ambitious Sakhalin II project, formerly led by Anglo-Dutch oil major Shell, was subjected to months of intense pressure last year from Russian authorities, who accused it of inflicting major environmental damage on Sakhalin Island, including deforestation, toxic waste dumping and soil erosion. The dispute was largely resolved after Russian natural gas monopoly Gazprom acquired a controlling stake (50% plus one share) in the project last December, and authorities coordinated in March 2007 a plan to fix the damage.

The minority partners in the project, Royal Dutch Shell, Mitsui and Mitsubishi, currently hold 27.5%, 12.5% and 10% stakes in the project respectively. The report highlights examples of best practice and commends Sakhalin Energy’s important role in establishing the independent Western Gray Whale Advisory Panel, the management of drilling muds, the upgrade of municipal landfills, year round use of double hulled tankers, road safety campaigns, and the operator’s other commitments. (