Jun 15, 2020 News
By Kiana Wilburg
All things being equal, American oil giant, ExxonMobil will have no less than five Floating Production Storage and Offloading (FPSO) vessels working offshore Guyana by 2026. The Liza Phase One Project commenced operations in December 2019 and ExxonMobil is already in the advanced stages of bringing its Liza Phase Two Project on stream by mid-2022. One of the approvals that it will be aggressively pursuing once the elections fiasco is over, relates to its Payara project which it is expected to commence production by 2026 latest.
But what remains a key area of concern for local environmental activities is the cumulative impact these five projects would have on the environment, especially as it relates to the release of Greenhouse Gases (GHG) such as Carbon Dioxide (CO2). These gases contribute directly to climate change.
According to the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) of the Payara Project, one gets the impression that the release of GHGs by ExxonMobil’s projects would not be at an alarming rate. The document notes that GHG emissions only increase in 2022 with the initiation of production operations for the Liza Phase 2 Development Project, and then again in 2023 with the initiation of production operations for the Payara Project. It was noted that cumulative GHG emissions peak in 2025, when the last of the five considered development projects passes through commissioning and all five projects are in the production operations stage, and then decrease steadily over the next 15 years from approximately 6,500 kilotonnes per year to approximately 5,900 kilotonnes per year, as predicted production levels gradually decrease for the five development projects.
But a deeper analysis by reputable scientist Dr. Mark Chernaik of Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide (ELAW) found significant anomalies that escaped the attention of Guyana’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In Dr. Chernaik’s report that was shared with the regulatory body, he noted that the Greenhouse Gas Emissions of the Payara Development Project are combined with the Liza Phase One and Liza Phase. These two projects are vastly understated in the EIA.
The scientist and attorney-at-law said, “The claim that the project’s emissions would be ‘over the next 15 years from approximately 6,500 kilotonnes per year to approximately 5,900 kilotonnes per year’ is grossly inaccurate as these emissions do not include indirect emissions, that is, the end use of the products derived from the crude oil.”
Since it is the intention of ExxonMobil to sell the crude oil it recovers to refineries that would convert the crude oil into fuels that are combusted, the scientist said that these indirect emissions, from a moral and legal standpoint, must be included in the climate impact assessment of the EIA.
Based on FPSO key design rates provided in the EIAs for Liza Phase 1 (100,000 barrels per day), Liza Phase 2 (220,000 barrels per day) and Payara (220,000 barrels per day), cumulative oil production by ExxonMobil is expected to be around 540,000 barrels per day, or 197 million barrels of oil per year for the years 2024 to 2030.
Taking this into consideration, the scientist said that the average CO2 emissions from production and eventual combustion of crude oil (including its refined products), is estimated at 0.43 metric tons CO2/barrel. He said that this demonstrates cumulative CO2 emissions of not 6,500 kilotons per year or 6,500,000 metric metric tons as put forward by ExxonMobil, but roughly 85 million metric tons of CO2 per year for the years 2024-2030 inclusive.
The scientist said that a typical large 1000 Megawatt coal-fired power plant emits roughly 8.5 million metric tons of CO2 per year. Therefore, the indirect CO2 emissions of ExxonMobil’s activities in Guyana would be the same from 10 large coal-fired power plants.
DO NOT APPROVE
Considering the findings laid out by the American scientist, international lawyer, Melinda Janki wrote the EPA urging that it does not approve the Payara Environmental Permit as the information it was provided by the oil giant does not give a true picture how the projects would affect the environment.
During her most recent engagement on Kaieteur Radio’s programme, Guyana’s Oil and You, Janki said it is critical that the EPA makes a proper, independent assessment of the emissions to be released from the projects before granting any further approvals. “We need to press the EPA on this,” she stated.
In a separate interview, Conservationist Annette Arjoon-Martins noted that the issue of climate change remains a real and present danger to Guyana as the country is ranked as highly vulnerable due to its challenges to adapt. Expounding further, the staunch advocate for the protection of the environment reminded that the country is a signatory to the Kyoto protocol and the Paris Agreement, which require all countries—rich, poor, developed, and developing—to do their part and slash greenhouse gas emissions.
Arjoon-Martins also reminded that the Office of Climate Change (OCC), which was established in 2009 is tasked with ensuring Guyana fulfills its obligations as a party to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, including periodically updating a national inventory of anthropogenic emissions by sources and removal by sinks of greenhouse gases. Arjoon-Martins noted that the OCC is in the process of submitting its Third National Communication on Climate Change to the UN which requires the factoring in of carbon emissions and its contributions to climate change into national development planning.
Even as Guyana pursues the exploitation of its resources in the Stabroek Block, the Conservationist categorically stated that the authorities of the day must not neglect the nation’s commitment to addressing climate change. Arjoon-Martins said Guyana’s authorities need to at all times, factor in the environmental costs of projects and not honour its agreements to slash greenhouse gases in breach.
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