Caspian Energy Journal Caspian European Club
Friday, 26 September 2014 17:31

Caspian region next to Russia and Qatar has very high reserves - President of the International Ocean Institute Featured

Caspian Energy (CE): Dr. Awni Behnam, you have a huge field for researches - the World ocean. To what extent are its resources limitless for the mankind? What are the ways of using them in the most rational and environmentally friendly manner?

Dr Awni Behnam, President of IOI:  The resources and services of the ocean available to human kind are not limitless but they are abundant and can be available to human kind for eternal generations to come if used wisely andsustainably.


CE: Is the oil development the major source of pollution? What is the main reason causing the pollution of the oceans at present?

Awni Behnam: Oil development contributes to pollution particularly from inputs to the oceans from effluents and from routine oil rig operations, but it is not the main source of ocean pollution. Land based pollution is the greatest threat to the ocean.


CE: According to the information placed at the official website of the International Ocean Institute, the new millennium ushered in formidable challenges to the sustainable governance of the ocean. Which challenges is it referring to?

Awni Behnam: The greatest challenges of the new millennium to sustainable governance of the ocean are climate change, the persistent global economic and financial crises and security issues including political, economic environmental and social. These over arching and global concerns overshadow and affect all aspects of ocean governance and influence our capacity to manage ocean issues.


CE: What do you think about the development of fields in the Arctic? Are there currently technologies enabling to conduct safe development in the Arctic latitudes?

Awni Behnam: Development of oil exploitation in the Arctic is worrisome and of great global concern but realistically unavoidable. Great care needs to be taken to ensure the highest safety standards are applied with best technologies available in exploiting energy resources in the Arctic.


CE: Do you find natural gas the most environmentally friendly among conventional energyresource?

Awni Behnam: There is already ample scientific evidence that natural gas is more environmentally friendly than alternative oil and coal. It is increasingly replacing coal in power production as it burns cleaner than coal and when used in electric generating power plants particularly when in modern combined cycles of gas and steam making such plants extremely energy efficient.


CE: What is the estimation of your institute about natural gas reserves lying in the world ocean? Which regions are the most promising from this point?

Awni Behnam: The IOI’s publication, the World Ocean Review 3 entitled Marine Resources – Opportunities and Risks provides detailed information and statistics on natural gas globally, the Caspian region next to Russia and Qatar has very high reserves. This publication is freely available in English and German as a PDF download through the website; this publication and its first two sister issues form part of IOI’s ocean literacy and information dissemination programme.


CE: Do you believe it is possible to shift to renewable energy resources, just like the way the EU aims to achieve by 2050? It is what the European “green parties” are talking about?

Awni Behnam: The EU has taken effective measures in the shift to renewable energy resources and the strategy in place indicates a very serious commitment to achieve targets in 2050. Nevertheless it is a daunting task.


CE: To what extent are the environmental claims substantiated upon possible laying of gas pipelines along the bottom of the enclosed water bodies?

Awni Behnam: Laying pipelines under the sea in territorial waters and high seas are permitted under UNCLOS provided they are for peaceful purposes. The lying of such pipe lines must take into account the protection and conservation of the oceans’ biodiversity. Establishing marine protected areas prior to lying of pipe lines is necessary to ensure environmental sustainability.


CE: The problem of division of the Caspian Sea as well as determination of its legal status has been remaining relevant for over 20 years. In which way you think such disputes should be solved?

Awni Behnam: UNCLOS provides a good model on dispute settlement mechanisms. All disputes must be settled through friendly persuasion. An important tool for sustainable governance of ocean and seas is cooperation. It is of great importance to strengthen cooperation of the states and institutions of the Caspian region to achieve prosperity and sustainable blue growth.


CE: The operational centre for the Caspian Sea was functioning under the International Ocean Institute. What were the achievements? Could you please tell about its activity?

Awni Behnam: For the Caspian region and in Turkmenistan, IOI, as a partner, has established and delivered a training course on the Sustainable Governance of the Caspian sea that is aimed at strengthening capacity of mid career practitioners for a holistic understanding of the sustainable management of the services and resources of Caspian sea and its coastlines.


CE: Which projects is the institute implementing in the Caspian countries?

Awni Behnam: The IOI network in the Caspian Sea region currently consists of two Operational Centres – one in IR Iran and another in Astrakhan, Russian Federation; each of these centres organizes capacity development and other programmes in the region itself. As part of the IOI’s Global Training Programme, the IOI can also rely on partnership with the State Enterprise on Caspian Sea Issues at the President of Turkmenistan, allowing it to offer the annual Training Programme on the Sustainable Development and Governance of the Caspian Sea in Turkmenistan itself. In addition to these projects, experts and stakeholders from the Caspian region can also benefit from other training organized by the IOI on Caspian issues but held outside the region. Two of these are the 5-week Training Programme on Regional Ocean Governance for the Mediterranean, Black, Baltic and Caspian Seas held annually in Malta, and the Master of Arts Degree in Ocean Governance offered by the Faculty of Laws at the University of Malta in partnership with the IOI (


CE: What is your position to prospects for development of methane hydrates lying in the deep-water areas?

Awni Behnam: Methane hydrates provide a promising source of energy for oil and gas importing countries. However in my estimation the technology and safety standards have not yet developed for large scale environmentally safe production or economically viable exploitation of such hydrates.


CE: You have recently propagandized electric vehicles, speaking about environmental protection. To what degree is the broad use of electric cars probable? Do they have the future?

Awni Behnam: Yes I fully support eclectically driven vehicles as these contribute to the reduction of carbon emissions. However the full benefits to the environment from electrically driven vehicles will only be realized if the source of electricity used to power them - that is electric generation power plants - also rely on clean energy generation.


Thank you for the interview

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