Environmental Pressure Suspends Oil-Platform Construction in Crucial Whale Feeding Ground

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Written By: Emma Websdale

Fossil-fuel producer Sakhalin Energy has suspended construction of an oil-drilling platform after conservationists raised concerns about its impacts on an endangered whale population.
1213169763After years of protests from a coalition of environmental organizations Sakhalin Energy has suspended construction of an oil-drilling platform, as its impacts raised concerns about the world’s remaining 150 western North Pacific gray whales.

Targeting the largest investors of the oilrig, including Royal Dutch Shell, Mitsui and Mitsubishi, environmental organizations urged western banks to block funding for the project—which would become the company’s fourth fossil-fuel platform in the Okhotsk Sea.

“Sakhalin Energy has delayed until 2017 its decision about building an additional oil platform, meaning the whales are safe at least until 2020”, said Alexei Knizhnikov, head of the World Wildlife Fund–Russia’s oil and gas campaigns. “This gives us more time to convince the company that the project should be stopped for good.”

The company has planned to build the platform close to a crucial summer feeding ground for gray whales off the northeast coast of Sakhalin. This raised alarm among conservationists, who argue that noise pollution from the construction and the running of the rig would drive away the species, due to the whale’s dependence on their sensitive hearing to locate food. Conservationists also warned that potential oil spills from the rig would be catastrophic for local wildlife, as a spill would be difficult to clean up in the icy sub-Arctic waters.

“These extraordinary animals and their newborn calves must consume enough food during the summer to last them [through] their lengthy migration”, said Knizhnikov. “This place that is so critical to the whales was put at even further risk by oil and gas prospectors, but the whales have won for now.”

Although the short-term halt to the oilrig’s construction is a victory for conservationists, other planned construction also threatens the survival of the species.

“Unfortunately, another development in the area is now cause for concern”, said Kniznikov. “Exxon Neftegas Limited is planning to construct a temporary pier in the whales’ habitat, which could disrupt their feeding area.” 

In response to the development, the World Wildlife Fund is calling upon the operator to abandon plans for the pier, and to use a different method for delivering cargo to the shore.

These recent developments are just two of many oil and gas exploration activities that threaten endangered species. Here at Ocean Thermal Energy Corporation (OTE) we are passionate and proactive about using our technology to conserve the environment by reducing greenhouse emissions. To read more, please visit our “Answers” page.