The discovery of what may be one of the world’s largest oil fields under the Caspian Sea near Atyrau, Kazakhstan, has western oil companies excited, but environmentalists deeply concerned. The field, estimated to contain about 40 billion barrels of oil, 10 billion of them recoverable, is being developed by a consortium including British Gas, ExxonMobil, Shell, TotalFinaElf, and Agip. Kazakh scientists say developing the field and accessing the oil could spell disaster for the northern Caspian region by increasing air pollution and related health problems, pushing wild Caspian sturgeon to the brink of extinction, and, in the worst-case scenario, by triggering devastating earthquakes if the oil and gas reserves beneath the seabed are emptied.