Environmental watchdog probes TNK-BP

Russia's environmental watchdog RosPrirodNadzor plans to launch a probe into the biggest oil field operated by TNK-BP. The announcement of the investigation came just a day after Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) raided the company’s offices and arr

RosPrirodNadzor will check TNK-BP’s SamotlorNeftegaz subsidiary, which is developing the firm’s biggest Samotlor field, in March or April.

Discovered in 1965, Samotlor is the largest oil field in Russia. TNK-BP began work at Samotlor in 1995 at a time when production volumes had decreased significantly.

After large investments, TNK-BP managed to boost oil output by 23 million tonnes per year. It plans to raise that to 35 million tonnes by 2010.

The environmental agency says it’s a routine check alongside inspections of other firms.

But the announcement came just a day after the FSB arrested TNK-BP’s employee Ilya Zaslavsky and his brother on suspicion of industrial espionage.

The security service carried out searches in the Moscow offices of TNK-BP and BP Trading Ltd.

TNK-BP says oil production is going ahead as normal, and that it is co-operating with the authorities.

The inspection will be led by Oleg Mitvol, who found environmental violations in the operation of Royal Dutch Shell in its Sakhalin-2 project two years ago.

Soon after, Shell sold control in the $US 22 billion project to Gazprom.