May 31, 2020 News
– gas development advisor says EPA, ExxonMobil excuses have no solid basis
By Kiana Wilburg
Head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Dr. Vincent Adams, had told Kaieteur News on numerous occasions that the flaring by ExxonMobil on the Liza Destiny oil vessel was due to mechanical issues experienced with a gas compressor.
As a result of the difficulties encountered, over nine billion cubic feet of gas was flared.
Dr. Adams had given assurances that the burning of the associated gas which releases harmful toxins into the environment would have come to an end since Friday last.
But up to two days ago, the American oil giant was still burning the gas that was supposed to be re-injected.
According to the EPA Head, ExxonMobil is still experiencing issues with the compressor.
He was happy to report, nonetheless, that the amount of gas being flared has been reduced significantly.
Adams said that the company was burning about 80 million cubic feet of gas per day but now it is down to 15.
He assured that ExxonMobil is working to address the issues being experienced while noting that it could all be over in a matter of weeks.
While Dr. Adams appears unalarmed by ExxonMobil’s flaring activities, there are other industry experts who are convinced the Guyanese populace is being told half-truths.
One such person is senior gas development advisor, Millan A. Einstein, who has over 40 years experience working in the industry.
During an exclusive interview, the international expert who has worked in Venezuela, Mexico and Kuwait, categorically stated that the excuse offered by Dr. Adams for flaring has no solid basis.
“…Every sensitive equipment leaving a manufacturing plant goes through a rigorous quality check. There are various levels of quality control in place. So if they claim the equipment they received was malfunctioning then whoever they are dealing with for offshore projects like Liza Phase One may not be established.”
Assuming the equipment came with issues, Einstein, who has worked on numerous Venezuelan gas assets, said that there is always a period prior to commissioning of the offshore project which allows for testing.
“…Normally all equipment offshore is checked with environmentally friendly fluid…This is done to make sure the equipment installed has the mechanical integrity that is needed. It is therefore unbelievable that the equipment is now experiencing manufacturing issues. And it is even more unbelievable that this is going on for close to six months…”
The international oil and gas advisor said there is absolutely no excuse for what is taking place offshore Guyana besides the fact that it was ExxonMobil’s clear intention to engage in flaring all along.
“…Either way, there needs to be an investigation into why flaring is taking place and the Guyanese people have a right to know the whole truth. This is their resource and they are not being told the full story,” the advisor concluded.
Yesterday, Kaieteur News contacted ExxonMobil’s Public Relations Advisor, Janelle Persaud, with regards to the issues being experienced with the gas compressor.
While she avoided providing the details asked for, the official did note that the design for the Liza Phase One operations does not utilize routine flaring.Persaud said that start-up for Liza Phase One involves temporary, non-routine flaring to fully commission the gas compression and injection systems for safe operations as outlined in the company’s approved environmental impact assessment and permit.
Further to this, Persaud said that the Liza Phase One project design eliminates the need for routine flaring by using produced gas to power the Liza Destiny FPSO vessel.
Kaieteur News understands that the design also allows for re-injecting gas into the reservoir to conserve the gas and to improve oil recovery, thereby reducing emissions compared with traditional methods.
“We have successfully started up the gas handling system and begun gas injection into the reservoir. We continue to safely complete final commissioning of the system. This process is operationally necessary, standard in the industry and consistent with related Guyanese laws.”
Asked to say when ExxonMobil foresees bringing the flaring to an end, Persaud said, “…As soon as it’s safely possible.”
INT’L LAW FIRM SPEAKS OUTLike Einstein, there are other transparency advocates and environmentalists who are of the firm opinion that the EPA does not fully understand the magnitude of what is taking place.
The Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL) is one such body.
In a recent statement to the press, the not-for-profit law firm was keen to note 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, 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 law firm’s position, the Director of CIEL’s Climate and Energy Programme, Nikki Reisch, opined that ExxonMobil had not taken adequate measures to prevent this harmful and unnecessary practice in the first place.
“…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 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 blow-down 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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