By Kiana Wilburg
Guyana’s National Oil Spill Contingency Plan is 90 percent complete and is expected to be in place before first oil. This was recently noted by Head of the Civil Defense Commission (CDC), Colonel Kester Craig.
During an interview with Kaieteur News, Colonel Craig explained that from February to July last, a lot of planning had taken place to ensure that the agencies involved are au fait with their respective responsibilities.
Colonel Craig said, “The most important part of developing any disaster oil spill plan is the planning process. So one of the first things you do is to identify a team. Often times, people get so accustomed to having a consultant develop the plan but when he or she comes, they give you an output and the technical person is not integrally involved.”
The CDC Head added, “So the main element in planning is lost. To avoid this, we developed this process whereby we identify a team and go through the process weekly with the members. So from February to July last, we met almost every Tuesday and worked on that. We went through every single step of the plan. And we did it that way so that each agency can understand what their role is….”
The official explained that the team consists of the CDC, the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC), the Guyana Energy Agency (GEA), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Coast Guards, Maritime Administration Department (MARAD), and the Department of Energy.
Colonel Craig explained that GGMC will be tasked with offshore monitoring while GEA will monitor onshore facilities such as the shore bases. He explained that the EPA will be in charge of identifying sensitive areas that are likely to be affected while being part of the national assessment team. The Coast Guards will be tasked with deploying booms and other response materials. MARAD will be working with the vessels while the Department of Energy will function as the main liaison for the operators.
The CDC head also explained that the responsibilities will continue to be tweaked where necessary as they approach the completion of the document. When the plan is finished, Craig said that other stakeholders would be brought in for consultations such as the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Agriculture, the oil companies, the Protected Areas Commission, the Guyana Revenue Authority, Customs, Immigration, the Guyana Police Force, the Guyana Fire Service and the Guyana Marine Turtle Conservation Society.
Colonel Craig said that in the meantime, all the oil operators are required to have an oil spill plan which the CDC has approved. He said, “Every rig, every FPSO, every vessel out there regarding oil is required to have a plan.”
In addition to this, the CDC Head said that millions of dollars worth in equipment have been acquired for oil spill response and most will be dispatched to the Coast Guard soon.
“So even though the plan is not 100 percent complete as yet, I am confident that we are prepared to handle an oil spill,” the CDC Head stated.
BUSY YEAR OFFSHORE
As work continues to complete the National Oil Spill Contingency Plan, offshore Guyana is expected to be flooded with drilling activity this year and next year too.
According to a report that was produced by Financial Analyst, Jenny Xenos, of Canaccord Genuity Corporation which is based in Canada, offshore Guyana is expected to see about 14 wells being drilled.
In an Industry Update report, the author stated that up to nine wells will be drilled on the prolific Stabroek Block which is operated by ExxonMobil’s subsidiary, Esso Exploration and Production Guyana Limited (EEPGL), Hess and CNOOC.
Furthermore, two wells are slated for drilling on the Orinduik Block which is under the licensed control of Tullow Oil, Total and Eco Atlantic. One well is planned for the Kanuku Block by Repsol and Tullow Oil. The Corentyne Block also has one well planned for drilling by its operators CGX and Frontera Energy. The Canje Block will also see one well being drilled by ExxonMobil, Total JHI and Mid-Atlantic.
The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) is of the firm view that Guyana should have a national oil spill contingency plan in place before oil production commences in 2020.
In its special report, the IDB noted that Guyana’s CARICOM sister, Trinidad and Tobago (T&T), which has been in the petroleum industry for more than a century, has taken the wise move to safeguard its sector with a national oil spill plan.
That plan was updated and passed by T&T’s Cabinet in January 2013. The IDB said that with T&T’s new plan, “deep-water drilling operators will now be required to demonstrate accessibility to a containment lap system to arrest a subsea blow out event…”
The IDB believes that Guyana can take a page from Trinidad’s book and get its own plan in place soon.
Several months have passed since the first round of consultations was held on the draft national oil spill plan. The document was submitted to Cabinet but it is still to be made public and finalized.
Leading the work on the oil spill plan is the Civil Defence Commission.
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