Caspian spill catastrophic, minister says

June 22, 2010 at 10:40 AM

ST. PETERSBURG, Russia, June 22 (UPI) -- An oil leak in the Caspian Sea barely the size of the Gulf of Mexico spill would be catastrophic, a former Russian energy minister said.

The international community is looking collectively at energy policies after the April sinking of an oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico sent oil plumes deep into sensitive ecosystems in the U.S. South.

Former Russian Energy Minister Yuri Shafranik told Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty that the potential damage to the Caspian Sea from an oil leak would be devastating.

Littoral states to the Caspian are considering an oil pipeline that would bring oil from Kazakhstan to the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline.

Shafranik said there are stark warnings from regional experts that laying a pipeline on the Caspian Sea floor is a bad move.

"Experts have said continuously that pipes must not be laid beneath the Caspian," he said. "And if wells are drilled it must be only under strict international supervision."

The former minister, who served 1993-96, added that safety regulations in the Russian oil sector are decades behind their Western counterparts.

Shafranik made his comments during the International Economic Forum in St. Petersburg.

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