Caspian Sea 2011


In the Caspian Sea shore area of Kazakhstan, the highest level of air pollution was registered in Aktau. The oil and gas industry in the west of Ka- zakhstan, in Atyrau and Mangystau oblasts, is de- scribed as playing a negative role in air pollution (MNRE Kazakhstan 1999). A further cause of de- clining air quality is the presence of open indus- trial sites exposed to various climatic conditions. An example is the uranium waste tailing site of Koshkar-Ata, which represents a source of seri- ous concern regarding air quality. As the results of various scientific investigations show, strong winds cause concentrations of the lead-radioac- tive isotope 210 Pb in the atmosphere to exceed background values by 15 times. Elements such as nickel, zinc, copper, chromium and tungsten have also been observed in the ambient air near the tailing site. Increased concentrations of heavy elements have also been recorded in soils at set- tlements including Akshukur, Bayandy, Kzyl-Tube and the Mangystau railway station, located to the east and west of the tailing site (TACIS 2009a). A further cause of air pollution in the area is the oil and gas extraction process. Hundreds of bil- lions in cubic meters of various gases are burned by oil and gas activities in the region. For exam- ple, in Mangystau oblast, the volume of torched gas over a nine-month period in 2005 amounted to 11,116 billion m 3 . In Atyrau oblast, the main source of such gases is Tengizshevroil (TCO) (CEP 2007f). In reference to the development of oil production in Kazakhstan’s Caspian Sea region, there is an ad- ditional air quality problem arising from the open- air storage of lumpy sulphur. 5,4 million tonnes of lumpy sulphur have accumulated by March 2011. According to information available, “TCO” plans to reduce the accumulated amount of sulfur to the industrial needs (circa 1 million tons) by 2017. It is expected that within a few years, much of the lump sulfur will be stored next to the plant “Bolashak” in Atyrau oblast (CEP 2007f). The Caspian’s largest oil fields are characterized by very complex geological conditions - in par- ticular by extreme strata pressure up to 1,100 at-

mospheres. They also have aggressive properties with the content of hydrogen sulphide registering up to 20 per cent. Therefore, accidents connected with oil deposits can lead to major disasters. This happened in 1985-86 when such an accident led to oil flames burning continuously for more than 398 days (CEP 2007f). Pollution from mobile sources such as trans- port is also a particular source of declining air quality in Kazakhstan. In 2006, the total volume of pollution from such sources was nearly 27,000 tonnes in the Kazakhstan sector of the Caspian Sea region, consisting of nitrogen oxide (13,600 tonnes), carbon oxide (7,400 tonnes), hydrocar- bons (4,300 tonnes) and other sources (1,700 tonnes) (TACIS 2009a). 5.3. State of sediment quality Seas, oceans and lakes accumulate sediment over time. The material can originate in various water systems or be terrigenous — sediments resulting from the erosion of land-based rocks. Many years of oil exploitation and pollution from oil by-products have left a sizeable footprint on sediments in the Caspian Sea. There are also considerable amounts of other anthropogenic organic and inorganic pollutants in bottom sedi- mentation — caused by industrial and agricul- tural activities and atmospheric deposits from burnt waste gas at refineries and oil extraction installations. Polluted sediments can be buried under clean sediments, but when such sedi- ments are disturbed, they can affect fauna grow- ing at the bottom of the sea and also cause sec- ondary water pollution. This section of the report is based on informa- tion collected from various monitoring activi- ties including the At Sea Training Programme (ASTP): the Contaminant Screening Programme, the Caspian Environment Programme’s (CEP) contaminant surveys of 2005, the Regional Wa- ter Quality Monitoring Plan, in addition to se- lected research reports.


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