Ecological constraints and opportunities of coastal energy development in the Caspian Sea.
Aubrey, David*,1, Shayegan, Jalal 2, Titarenko, Oksana3, Amirzhanov, Baurzhan4, 1 Woods Hole Group, East Falmouth, MA, USA2 Sharif University of Technology, Tehran, Iran3 SUNY ESF, Syracuse, NY, USA4 Kazakhstan Development Authority, Atyrau, Kazakhstan
ABSTRACT- The Caspian region is important both ecologically and economically, with valuable oil and gas resources, perhaps the second largest in the world, commercial fisheries including the production of 90% of the world's caviar, many endemic species, including the Caspian Seal and vast coastal wetlands, including the Volga delta. The Caspian region faces a multitude of environmental problems including: pollution, sea level change, climate change, over-exploitation of fisheries and invasive species, among others. The region has a long history of oil production and has suffered significant degradation from industrial and agricultural activity. New energy developments in the North Caspian Sea will require the best available technology to overcome the challenges of extracting deep, high pressure, high sulfur hydrocarbons in biologically diverse and productive shallow water habitats, with winter ice. Understanding and managing complex interacting environmental impacts demands an ecosystem approach. Placing proposed energy development into the broader environmental context offers new opportunities for the prevention of negative environmental impacts and for the amelioration of past environmental degradation. With verifiable modern environmental monitoring, unrestricted availability of data and targeted research, adaptive management of energy development can be based upon measured environmental degradation or improvement. Incentives and regulations based upon the environmental condition of the Caspian Sea can elicit cooperation between corporate, governmental scientific and environmental organizations. For example, one source of oil pollution in the Caspian Sea is leaking submerged USSR-era oil wells. While continuing to minimize (though not eliminate) their own current sources of oil pollution, oil companies could recap these old wells, resulting in a net clean up of oil pollution in the Sea. Similarly, dredging for ship access could be designed to minimize negative environmental impacts and improve spawning access for sturgeon.
Key words: Caspian, oil, energy, development
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