Environmentalists are concerned that ExxonMobil will not do enough to protect the environment, “and after the oil is finished and they pack up and leave, we will be left here to deal with the effects of their actions”.
This publication has already reported on the weak measures that ExxonMobil has outlined in the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) to be taken in the event of an oil spill.
Another area of concern is the control of toxic gases that are known to have extremely negative effects on the very air we depend on for survival.
In the EIA that ExxonMobil submitted to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), it admitted that several harmful gases will be emitted into the environment once production of oil begins. Among the many sources and types of emissions identified are Carbon Dioxide (CO2) Nitrogen Oxides (NOx), Sulfur Oxides (SOx), Cobalt (CO), Particulate matter and Volatile Organic Compounds
These emissions can have dreadful impacts on the environment, some more than others. Particulate Matter is deemed among the worst, because of its makeup. Particulate Matter is the sum of all solid and liquid particles suspended in the air, many of which are hazardous. This complex mixture includes both organic and inorganic particles, such as dust, pollen, soot, smoke, and liquid droplets.
Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are emitted as gases from certain solids or liquids. VOCs include a variety of chemicals, some of which may have short and long-term adverse health effects. In some countries, VOCs are regulated by law.
During ExxonMobil’s 20-year production period, several hundred tons of these harmful gases, which are deemed significant contributors to climate change, will be emitted into the environment.
In its EIA, ExxonMobil has committed to annually quantifying these emissions using internationally recognized methodologies and good practices. However, the commitment was only made to quantify Green House Gases (GHG). No mention was made about quantifying other harmful gases. Further, little measures were outlined to manage the control of the GHGs.
Some oil companies commit to strict measures that will help significantly in reducing the level of emissions into the environment.
Recommendations for the industry such as those proposed by the International Financial Corporation (IFC) as it relates to reducing/controlling greenhouse gases, were ignored by ExxonMobil. These include the use of renewable energy, enhancing energy efficiency and carbon financing.
In the EIA, ExxonMobil said that emissions generated by the Project generally emanate from three source categories: specific point sources such as the power generating units and diesel engines on drill ships and on the FPSO, non-routine flaring used to combust produced gas when not consumed as fuel gas on FPSO or re-injected, and general area sources such as support vessels, construction vessels, tug boats, and helicopters. The oil company said that such emissions contribute to increases in the ambient air concentrations of certain pollutants.
ExxonMobil committed to maintaining equipment, marine vessels, and helicopters in good working order and operate in accordance with manufacturer’s specifications in order to reduce atmospheric emissions and sound levels to the extent reasonably practicable.
It also said that it will “regularly” inspect and service shore base cranes and construction equipment in order to mitigate the potential for spills and to maintain air emissions at optimal levels. But nothing was stated in the EIA document as to what constitutes “regular” in this case. As in by “regular,” ExxonMobil means that it will inspect and service every month, every six months, or yearly, over the 20-year life of the project.
ExxonMobil said that it will shut down (or throttle down) sources of combustion equipment in intermittent use, where reasonably practicable, in order to reduce air emissions.
ExxonMobil committed to the utilization of secondary containment for bulk fuel storage, drilling fluids, and hazardous materials, where practical.
The company said that it will “regularly” check pipes, storage tanks, and other equipment associated with storage or transfer of hydrocarbons/chemicals for leaks and perform regular audits of field operations on the drill ship, FPSO, and shore base to ensure application of designed safeguards.
Last year was the hottest year on record due to climate change. Emissions of gases such as those that will go into our environment now have contributed to this development. Therefore it would have been very useful to reduce the levels of emissions.
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