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Sakhalin-1 and -2 oil and gas development projects, Russia


The Sakhalin-1 project develops three oil and gas fields offshore in the northeastern coast of Sakhalin Island in Russia and is operated by Exxon Neftegas Limited. Discovered in 1977, the production sharing agreement for the project became effective in the late 1990s and the exploration period has formally ended in 2001. Its sister project, the Sakhalin-2 project, also includes three offshore oil and gas platforms, 15 kilometres off the Russian island of Sakhalin, in the North Pacific Ocean, located just north of Japan, off the east coast of Russia. After a long period of funding issues and after the budget had doubled from 10 billion USD to 20 billion USD in 2005, the LNG plant is operational and has now reached full capacity. It is one of the largest integrated oil and gas projects in the world.

Concerns have long been raised about the environmental impact of the projects. The offshore projects are believed to put in danger the Western gray whales, a species already near extinction, which feeds in the waters around Sakhalin. Also, pipelines crossing seismic fault lines, rivers and streams as well as completed and ongoing deforestation for road construction have been identified as potential high risks for the local population and especially for the environment and wildlife.

In 2004, environmentalist organizations were outraged after an oil spill of approximately 1,300 barrels of fuel took place on 8 September at Kholmsk on Sakhalin Island, in an area administrated by Royal Dutch Shell. This event further fuelled criticism and encouraged protests by local, national and international organizations, asking for a moratorium on the Sakhalin marine activities.

The indigenous peoples living on the island, the Nivkh, Uilta and Evenki, pursue a traditional self-sustained lifestyle and economy, living off fishing, hunting, herding and wild plant gathering. They have been suffering from the negative ecological impacts of the oil and gas projects and have been raising awareness about the environmental impacts of the two Sakhalin projects since constructions started in the late 1990s. They have inter alia documented massive herring die-offs, damages to the fishing economy, decreases of saffron cod and they are fearing damage to salmon spawning streams as well as threats to the endangered Western Pacific Grey Whale by the Sakhalin-2 activity.

On 20 January 2005, the indigenous peoples asked the companies to sign a memorandum which would spell out cooperation on an independent cultural impact review and provide for the establishment of a compensation fund. When the companies refused to sign the document, more protests took place and direct action was taken, which included the blockage of roads and other forms of protest. In 2005, representatives of indigenous peoples blocked more than 100 pieces of heavy machinery to protest the oil and gas projects on Sakhalin. Protests continued throughout the year and in January 2006, over 300 protesters blocked the Sakhalin Energy LNG plant, which is part of the Sakhalin-2 project. Throughout the process, indigenous peoples have shared their concern that government and administration were using intimidation techniques in order to stop people from taking part in the protests.

A large part of the protest campaign of local indigenous communities and international NGOs also consisted in efforts of dissuading the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) of investing in the Sakhalin-2 project while it was still considering to do so.

After years of seesaw, the EBRD finally concluded its discussions and decided not to invest in the Royal Dutch Shell operated Sakhalin-2 project in 2011, after the Russian Gazprom agreed to become a majority owner. This development was welcomed by environmentalists, who have been and still are criticizing the Dutch company's management of the oil and gas project and its risks for the environment and indigenous peoples.

In 2005, after pressure from the media and international campaigns by NGOs such as WWF, Greenpeace and local indigenous organizations, Shell accepted the recommendations of an Independent Scientific Review Panel set up by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) to re-route the offshore pipelines in order to avoid whale-feeding areas. Hence, the Panel has also found Shell's measures to be lacking a solid scientific basis. Moreover, in 2006, the Western Gray Whales Advisory Panel was established together by the IUCN and Shell in order to enhance the western gray whales' protection.

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Sakhalin-1 and -2 oil and gas development projects, Russia
Country:Russian Federation
State or province:Sakhalin Oblast
Location of conflict:Sakhalin island, offshore and onshore
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict. 1st level:Fossil Fuels and Climate Justice/Energy
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Oil and gas exploration and extraction
Oil and gas refining
Specific commodities:Crude oil
Natural Gas

Project Details and Actors

Project details

Offshore gas and oil projects

Liquefied natural gas capacity: More than 10 million tonnes of liquified natural gas and 47 million barrels of oil

Now at its full capacity, it takes 5% of the world’s current liquefied natural gas market.

Sakhalin 1, current oil production: 250,000 barrels / day

Sakhalin 2, current oil production: 395,000 barrels / day

Sakhalin 3, current gas production: 53 x 10^6 m^3 / day

The facility Sakhalin 2 also includes two 800 km onshore pipelines as well as approximately 165 km offshore pipelines.

Project area:Onshore processing facility: 62,2 hectares LNG plant: 490 hectares
Level of Investment for the conflictive project20,000,000,000 USD (original estimate of 10,000,000,000 USD was revised in 2005)
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:Around 580,000 (population of the island)
Start of the conflict:01/01/1995
End of the conflict:01/01/2011
Company names or state enterprises:Royal Dutch Shell (Shell) from Netherlands
ExxonMobil Corporation (Exxon) from United States of America
Exxon Neftegas Limited from Russian Federation
International and Finance InstitutionsThe European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD)
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:World Wildlife Fund:
Russian Association of Indigenous Minority Peoples of the North (RAIPON):

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityLATENT (no visible organising at the moment)
Reaction stageLATENT (no visible resistance)
Groups mobilizing:Indigenous groups or traditional communities
International ejos
Local ejos
Indigenous communities Nivkh, Uilta and Evenki
Forms of mobilization:Blockades
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Occupation of buildings/public spaces


Environmental ImpactsPotential: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity)
Socio-economical ImpactsPotential: Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures


Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Environmental improvements, rehabilitation/restoration of area
Technical solutions to improve resource supply/quality/distribution
Violent targeting of activists
Withdrawal of company/investment
EBRD backing out of financing the Sikhalin-2 project and the re-routing of the pipelines and establishing an independent panel in order to enhance protection of the western gray whales
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure
Briefly explain:Small successes, like the EBRD backing out of financing the Sikhalin-2 project and the re-routing of the pipelines and establishing an independent panel in order to enhance protection of the western gray whales, have been achieved by the environmentalist movements in Sakhalin. Hence, the project has already done a lot of damage to the local flora and fauna during the past decades and is likely to continue harming the wildlife as well as the traditional lifestyle of indigenous communities in the future, as long as it is operating. The demands for a moratorium remained unheard.

Sources & Materials

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

BRADSHAW, Michael (2003), Prospects for oil and gas exports to Northeast Asia from Siberia and the Russian Far East, with a particular focus on Sakhalin, Sibirica: Journal of Siberian Studies, 2003, Vol. 3(1), p. 64-86

Indigenous Peoples in Sakhalin, Russia, campaign against oil extraction, 2005-2007, Global Nonviolent Action Database,

Green groups welcome EBRD Sakhalin-2 pull-out, by Tom Bergin, Reuters, 12 January 2007,

Indigenous People Protest LNG Project on Sakhalin, The Moscow Times, 21 January 2005,

RUSSIA: Support the Indigenous Peoples' Protest Against Big Oil in Sakhalin, Pacific Environment, CorpWatch, 25 January 2005,

Sakhalin-2 oil and gas development project, WWF.

EBRD pulls out of Sakhalin-2 project, Friends of the Earth, 24 January 2008,

ExxonMobil starts up Sakhalin-1 Odoptu field, Oil & Gas Journal, 29 September 2010,

UPDATE: 1-ExxonMobil says not planning to leave Sakhalin project in Russia, Reuters, 16 May 2014,

Sakhalin 1 – Project homepage, Exxon Neftegas Limited,

Demand for Moratorium on Sakhalin-2 Marine Activity, Greenpeace, 21 September 2004,

Russia: Indigenous peoples protest against Sakhalin oil, gas projects, by Tass Staffer, originally published by Itar-Tass news agency, 21 January 2005,

Sakhalin firm ignoring whales: IUCN, The Japan Times, 22 February 2009,

IUCN and Sakhalin Energy continue joint efforts to protect whales, IUCN, 9 January 2012, http

Sakhalin 2 – an overview, Shell Global,

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Map of the platforms, Gazprom

Meta information

Last update18/08/2019
Conflict ID:1759



EBRD out!

© Sakhalin Environment Watch Source:

A gray whale closed to the plant

Source: A Western Gray Whale near an oil drilling platform operated by Shell, Mitsubishi, and Matsui near Sakhalin Island. Photo by Greenpeace Russia