By Kiana Wilburg
In an effort to keep the level of flaring by ExxonMobil to a minimum, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has forced the oil giant to cut back on its oil production at the Liza Phase One Project. According to head of the EPA, Dr. Vincent Adams, the American super-major can only produce a maximum of 30,000 barrels of oil per day, about two-thirds less.
Director of the Energy Department, Dr. Mark Bynoe had said last month that oil production hovered around 77,000 barrels of oil per day while noting that the country was expected to reach its full capacity, that is to say 120,000 barrels of oil per day, this month.
Those plans, it appears, have been dashed so that flaring can be kept between 15 million and 20 million cubic feet of gas per day.
During an interview yesterday, Dr. Adams said, “We have been meeting constantly with ExxonMobil’s subsidiary, Esso Exploration and Production Guyana Limited (EEPGL) on the issue of flaring because it is a major issue of concern to us. In fact, we have been putting the pressure on Exxon. They are at a point where they had to cut back on their production. They are producing 25,000 to 30,000 barrels instead of the 80,000 barrels. They have also been mandated to keep the lowest flaring level which is 20 to 15 million cubic feet…”
Dr. Adams also sought to explain that ExxonMobil appears to be between a rock and a hard place when it comes to fixing a gas compressor that left the company with no other alternative than to flare.
In this regard, the EPA head said that ExxonMobil requires experts from the USA, Germany and Brazil. He noted, however, that strict COVID-19 measures are hindering this process.
“…Everyone has to quarantine before they go on the FPSO. Some of the experts are Brazilian but it has been a strict no for them since COVID-19 cases are soaring there. Should the company fail to get the experts offshore and they (ExxonMobil) remove the gas compressor and send it to Germany to fix, we would be back to square one where it has been flaring over 80 million cubic feet of gas per day. ”
The EPA head said he has made it clear to ExxonMobil that there is no way, it can go back to the significant levels of flaring hence he has told them to cut back on production so that it can have less gas at its disposal to burn.
The official said too that he has noted calls for the EPA to shut down operations at Liza Phase One until the gas compressor is fixed. He was keen to note that this would not be in Guyana’s best interest. He said such a course of action would risk of damaging the Liza reservoir. PERMISSIBLE
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.
In a recent interview he had done with this newspaper, Dr. Adams said he agrees with industry stakeholders that the amount of gas flared is significant. He stated, however, that the company’s permit makes allowance for the conditions under which the associated gas was burnt.
Dr. Adams said that ExxonMobil’s environmental permit clearly states that there shall be no flaring, except in the case of startup or emergency.
“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 official added: “…So this is not a breach of license or permit. This is part of start-up.”
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.
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