By Kiana Wilburg
Head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Dr. Vincent Adams confirmed with Kaieteur News last night that ExxonMobil, despite its “best efforts”, has been unable to fix a troublesome gas processor, hence it is still flaring.
The official explained that the company is now flaring 15 million cubic feet of gas per day instead of the 80 million cubic feet when it first started during start up last year on the Liza Destiny oil vessel. Dr. Adams said, “When they thought they were at the end, they just encountered more issues but they are fixing those. The flaring rate went from about 80 million cubic feet per day and came down…So it is now up to 15 million cubic feet per day.”
Dr. Adams said that the issues still pertain to the gas compressor and its seal. Asked to say if COVID-19 travel restrictions are affecting the pace at which ExxonMobil is expected to quickly address the matter or if there are other factors. This question was posed taking into account that Dr. Adams had given assurances that flaring would have been over since last week. In response, the EPA official said Kaieteur News should pose that question to the operator. He noted however that the EPA, the Department of Energy and the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) are working together with ExxonMobil on the matter. The official also stressed that there is nothing for Guyanese to be alarmed about where this matter is concerned.
While the EPA Head holds that view, the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL) is convinced that Guyana’s authorities are perhaps failing to understand the true magnitude of what is taking place. In a recent statement to the press, the not-for-profit law firm noted that flaring releases greenhouse gases and toxins which threaten the global climate, the local environment and public health. CIEL which was founded in 1989 also noted that the almost six-month duration of the flaring by ExxonMobil suggests more than a one-time, technical glitch.
In fact, the law firm said that the estimated nine billion cubic feet of gas, which Exxon said it flared thus far puts Guyana among the top 10 gas flaring countries in the world even though Guyana has only been producing oil for close to six months.
CIEL said that the carbon dioxide emissions from that flaring are approximately equivalent to the amount generated by Guyana’s entire population over three months.
Adding to the organization’s position, the Director of CIEL’s Climate and Energy Programme, Nikki Reisch, said ExxonMobil had not taken adequate measures to prevent this harmful and unnecessary practice in the first place. The official said, “…Exxon claims the flaring was temporary and exceptional, due to failures of equipment designed to re-inject the gas into the ground. If so, that bodes poorly for the company’s capacity or willingness to mitigate other foreseeable environmental impacts, not to mention any potential disasters that could accompany deepwater operations.”
CIEL’s Senior Attorney, Erika Lennon is also concerned about the flaring in Guyana. In fact, Lennon is convinced that ExxonMobil’s whole plan to develop oil in Guyana threatens to transform the country into a carbon bomb. “Wasteful and harmful gas flaring is just one more way that is happening,” the Senior Attorney concluded.
According to the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) that the EPA approved for Liza Phase One, flaring is permissible at various intervals until 2040. In the document that Kaieteur News perused, ExxonMobil notes that flaring would actually be temporary and non-routine. In fact, its subsidiary, Esso Exploration and Production Guyana Limited (EEPGL) intends to re-inject all operationally, produced gas under routine conditions, except that which will be utilised for FPSO operations (e.g., fuel gas).
It was further noted that a flare system will be provided for the collection and safe disposition of produced hydrocarbon gases resulting from unplanned, non-routine relief and blowdown events. The EIA states that relief events occur to prevent overpressure scenarios in the process equipment. It further clarifies that blowdown events occur to depressure the facilities in a controlled manner as a result of emergency shutdown events.
In addition, the EIA states that temporary, non-routine flaring will occur during equipment maintenance, process upsets, and start-up.
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