…T&T, Grenada, other islands would be greatly affected by an oil spill here-Marine Consultant
By Kiana Wilburg
Some nations make the sorry mistake of only fearing the worst and begin preparing for it when oil companies head into production phase.
But an oil spill can happen when operators are in their exploratory stage. This was the case of the great Deepwater Horizon oil spill. It was recognized as the worst oil spill in U.S. history.
Within days of April 20, 2010 explosion and sinking of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico, underwater cameras revealed that a pipe was leaking oil and gas on the ocean floor about 42 miles off the coast of Louisiana.
By the time the well was capped on July 15, 2010 (87 days later), an estimated 3.19 million barrels of oil had leaked into the Gulf.
The Stabroek Block is a haven of exploratory wells which were drilled by ExxonMobil. To date, the citizenry is unaware of the plans in place at the national level for an oil spill as well as ExxonMobil’s oil spill response plan which it has submitted to the Government.
A Marine consultant who has worked with oil and gas companies for close to 20 years agrees that the government needs to urgently attack the issue of an oil spill.
The Consultant said, “The development of the Liza 2 well, one of several offshore Guyana, is at a water depth of around 5,000 feet and a well depth of 18,000 feet.
“Surely ExxonMobil has already put in place a plan to ensure there is no repeat of Macondo here. They are, after all, drilling down into the oil-bearing strata and are ‘tapped in’ to the well pressure.
“The wells exist now. So a spill could happen now.”
The official added, “But why are we being told that an oil spill plan is still being developed by the Government of Guyana? Every oil-drilling company in the world has a response plan so why can’t we know about it?”
The consultant also questioned whether evaluations were carried out on the currents offshore Guyana by the government or even by ExxonMobil.
The consultant stressed that these studies are important since it would provide useful data on how fast the currents would carry an oil spill and in the direction of which islands.
The adviser explained that the Equatorial Current flows from a north-easterly position then veers away from coastal Guyana toward the north-west at some good rate past the area of Liza 2, which is about 80 nautical miles offshore.
He opined that an oil spill of the Macondo size, would release huge quantities of crude to the surface and towards the Caribbean islands.
He noted that it would reach the beaches of Tobago first, depending on wind and current conditions, and then move on to Grenada and Barbados.
The consultant added, “Have current buoy tests been run? …Whatever the current charts say, the downstream victims are the islands I referred to earlier.”
In a sense, the Marine specialist said that the Macondo spill was fortunate in that there were no strong currents to carry the spill to distant places.
“But imagine the scenario, if there were to be a major spill, where the beaches of Barbados, Grenada and Tobago were to be polluted with heavy, black, Guyana crude oil; where natural life would be seriously affected.
“What procedures are in place to handle that kind of huge claim against our country if that were to happen?
The consultant insists that what the citizenry needs to see is a definitive and detailed procedure by ExxonMobil and all other drillers, whereby they take on the lessons from Macondo, display good communication with contractors on the worksite, have an overview of the whole operation, can outline the number and specification of oil spill response vessels on site, and identify their safe operating practices and insurance to cover the potential issues as stated earlier.
The consultant said, “If the drillers say they have been around the world twice etc, then it is important for us to understand that anyone can say that and more.
“However, the nation needs to see the details; it needs to see ExxonMobil’s plans.”
The Marine expert said that this is not to say that Exxon is backwards in its exploration principles and procedures.
He emphasized that the Government of Guyana needs to ensure that all safety procedures are followed. He said that the administration urgently needs to hire an independent third party to oversee this issue and ensure that Guyana’s oil is produced in a very safe and strict managed environment.
The consultant said that the oily wool is being pulled across the eyes of Guyana’s leaders. He stressed that there needs to be clarity on several fronts.
These include hazard identification and risk assessment, job safety analysis, task plans, insurance evidence, and shared documentation about blowout preventers and procedures.
The consultant also stated that there needs to be knowledge sharing on all operations which can be thoroughly checked by independent oilfield experts working on behalf of Guyana.
He said that this is necessary to ensure that all proper procedures are being followed.
With the aforementioned still to be addressed, the Marine Consultant said one can safely conclude that, “At 5,000 feet of water, the Government is out of its depth.”
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