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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Shafranik: Oil Spill Exploited

Fuel and Energy Minister Yury Shafranik said Wednesday an oil spill from a pipeline in the Arctic north had been exaggerated by companies competing for a share in a lucrative project in the area.

He also defended Russian oil industry technology and expertise and accused people of seeking to drive down the share price of Komineft, the enterprise that owns the pipeline.

"They simply wanted, and dreamed of, lowering the price of Komineft shares ... (and) of ousting some big American firms from the Timan-Pechora project," he told reporters, without naming those he considered responsible.

Shafranik was referring to a planned production-sharing agreement with a consortium of foreign companies in the Timan-Pechora oil and gas basin, just north of the ruptured pipeline area.

Fuel and Energy Ministry estimates, quoted by Itar-Tass, say 14,000 tons of oil and about 30,000 tons of oil-bearing liquids leaked from the pipeline.

A local environmental group, the Social-Ecological Union, has said 200,000 tons of oil was spilled. The New York Times, quoting the U.S. Department of Energy, has said the leak amounted to 250,000 tons.

Shafranik said efforts had been made to deal with the spill from a corroded pipeline near the town of Usinsk. "I consider the work to have been worthy, but not sufficient," he said.

"This is an average, difficult, unpleasant accident, but it is an accident that can be dealt with by people on the spot whose job it is," he said.

The minister said the fuss kicked up over the spill followed the signing in late September of a memorandum by the Russian and U.S. presidents on the Timan-Pechora project. The project involves the U.S. firms Texaco, Exxon and Amoco, plus Norway's Norsk Hydro.

"The two presidents confirmed the Timan-Pechora project. This is the project of the century, with about $10 billion in investment, and probably companies that very much wanted to be in this project decided to push out competitors," Shafranik said.

"We consider the fuss to be above all because of this."