Back at the beginning of 2017 a vast peatland was discovered deep in the Congo Basin. Storing an astounding amount of carbon dioxide, equivalent to 3 years of world carbon emissions, covered by primary rainforest that was completely undisturbed with large populations to the forest elephants and gorillas this was a real success story. Despite storing so much carbon is there only accounts for 4% of the Congo Basin
Fast forward 3 years, and there is a new and less encouraging story in the Press. Intention is to drain portions of this area so as to be able to drill through it and access the oil underneath. While this would not release carbon emissions equivalent to the world’s population it would be equivalent to Japan’s entire CO2 emissions.
It is thought that this peatland bog sits over 395 million barrels of oil.
While it is frustrating that this country is going back on on agreements it made, it really is in trouble. As with many countries in Africa it has borrowed much money from the rest of the world during various catastrophes, this amount of oil with completely change the country’s finances.
Congo brazzaville president Denis Sassou-Nguess said that the work would not destroy the forest all the majority of the peatland and as the oil reserves lie on the edge of this vast area ( this area is an equivalent size to England). However analysis done on reports from their country re done by their own scientists estimate at the area that would need to be drilled which store release more than 1 gigaton.
There is also arguments as to how much all there really is there. After initial surveys were done both Total and Shell rejected the offer to be involved in extracting the oil. An expert from Shell argued that there was nowhere near as much oil as the government was claiming and that therefore for the risk reward balance was not good enough to be worth continuing. With all this risk it is highly unlikely that any Western Business or bank would be willing to invest, unfortunately there are substantial numbers of banks in places such as China who do not worry about the same things. Time will tell if sense prevails in this issue.
Perhaps this country could agree to set aside twice as much land lost in this reserve elsewhere in the country? There are many unprotected areas of pristine rain forest in this country. If the country where to do something like this they could reassure the global community that they take conservation seriously while at the same time developing this oil field.