By Kiana Wilburg
The flaring of over nine billion cubic feet of gas by ExxonMobil in the Stabroek Block has left several local and international environmentalists completely alarmed, especially when one takes into consideration the nation’s commitment to reduce greenhouse gases.
Head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Dr. Vincent Adams, has said he agrees with industry stakeholders that the amount of gas flared is significant, but was keen to note however that the company’s permit makes allowance for the conditions under which the associated gas was burnt.
During an interview with Kaieteur News, Dr. Adams said that ExxonMobil’s environmental permit clearly states that there shall be no flaring, except in the case of startup or emergency.
He told, “What is happening is part of startup and it took longer than expected because of equipment failure. It is the first time they are using a particular design for the compressor for the Liza Destiny FPSO. You can build compressors and everything onshore but when you test it with a different type of gas on the site, it is a different ball game.”
The EPA Head said that ExxonMobil would have found during the testing that the seal for the compressor was not compatible hence it was removed.
“So this is not a breach of license or permit,” he said, “This is part of start-up. We did not say you can only flare x number cubic feet during an emergency or start up…So the permit covers what they are doing. The initial flaring was only supposed to last for a few hours or a few days. But because of the issues with the equipment, they had to change out and flare 100 percent of the gas,” the official said.
Based on the information he received from ExxonMobil, Dr. Adams said that these issues would not be encountered for the start-up of other projects such as Payara and Liza Phase Two.
Dr. Adams shared as well that the EPA is satisfied that ExxonMobil has done everything within its power to address the issues while noting that it has already started cutting back on the gas being flared. The EPA Head said, “We are monitoring it and really pressuring them on this. They would not get a free pass for the next time. If they flare outside of what the permit states, there are provisions for penalties.” According to the EPA’s laws, which date back to 1996, it allows the regulatory body to institute a maximum penalty of about $1M.
The EPA head had told Kaieteur that the oil giant is flaring about 15 million cubic feet of gas per day. Local conservationist, Annette Arjoon-Martins had said that while that number seems small in the eyes of some, it is truly significant. The advocate for a safe environment said that the flaring of 15 million cubic feet of gas is equivalent to the destruction of 2000 acres of forest per day. Taking this into consideration, she believes ExxonMobil’s operations should be halted until its gas compressor can be fixed.
“To do otherwise is utterly unacceptable,” an impassioned Arjoon-Martins told this news agency during an interview for World Environment Day.
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