Aug 16, 2020 News
By Kiana Wilburg
The consultant selected to review the Payara field development plan for ExxonMobil’s third Stabroek Block project is ex-Premier of Alberta, Canada, Alison Redford.
This was announced yesterday by the Ministry of Natural Resources following questions from Kaieteur News about the individual who would be hired by way of a grant from the Canadian High Commission for this technical job.
Following a detailed background check, Kaieteur News was able to find a wealth of information about Redford’s political and legal prowess.
The same, however, could not be found about the years of experience the Queen’s Counsel has in finding loopholes in field development plans.
In fact, this newspaper found that it was only in November 2017 that Redford took a position as a “policy advisor” in Kabul to the government of Afghanistan to help reform its Ministry of Mines and Petroleum which has a reputation for corruption and mismanagement.
In a statement to the press yesterday, the Ministry of Natural Resources said that Redford now serves as a World Bank Advisor on Gas Sector Reform in Pakistan and also as an advisor in other jurisdictions, as they develop new approaches to upstream regulation and community engagement.
The Ministry said, too, that she has worked on several bilateral and multilateral projects particularly in energy sector regulation and has worked in multiple countries on behalf of the United Nations, the Commonwealth and the European Union.
Here again, nothing was mentioned about her background in reviewing field development plans.
The Ministry also said that Redford has commenced the review of the Payara plan but the names of the other members and their experience in reviewing field development plans were not mentioned. The said review is expected to be completed by August 24.
Kaieteur News spoke with several experts who were part of evaluation teams in the Caribbean and Africa and all explained that the job is by no means one that can be dealt with merely at the policy or legal level. It involves, for example, assessments of the oil company’s plans for reservoir mapping and management. This deals with how the oil companies will go about getting as much oil and gas out of the ground as efficiently as possible. The members of the review committee would therefore need to have years of geological, geophysical and reservoir engineering knowledge.
Further to this, Field Development Plans also explain how the company will go about selecting the best well paths and design the wells for drilling to penetrate as much of the reservoirs as possible and/or locate injectors to help with enhancing production, but safely and cost effectively.
It also provides information on the economics to model the various options for reservoir depletion, production rates, costs, equipment (including FPSO) purchase or lease, etc.
The experts said it would therefore mean that Guyana would need a team which has experienced consultants as well as data and equipment (technology) to do interpretations and/or validate what has been provided by ExxonMobil.
One specialist said: “Even though ExxonMobil is a world class operator, it is not recommended to just accept their plan, as their objectives (rapid rate of production) may not be in sync with the country’s…”
Another expert said: “There are tradeoffs that can occur during the approval process and the government needs to know how much oil or gas it wants to leave in the ground. It has the power to control depletion…Guyana has to remember that the faster it approves these plans, it is putting more pressure on itself to regulate in the absence of strong institutions.”
As is well known, Guyana has a long way to go in strengthening its institutions.
Apart from Redford’s apparent inexperience, Kaieteur News’ background check also found that the former politician had demitted office in 2014 following a slew of scandals.
In 2013, Redford had attended the funeral of Nelson Mandela. Her attendance, however, created a controversy when it was revealed that the Alberta government covered the approximately CDN $45,000 cost for her trip, including roughly CDN$10,000 for a privately chartered flight to return to Alberta from South Africa for a swearing-in of the new Alberta Cabinet.
Redford’s travel further elicited disapproval from Albertans when it was revealed that her then 12-year-old daughter and a friend had accompanied her several times on official government planes.
In mid-March 2014, Redford repaid the costs of the Mandela funeral trip and apologized. It was reported in the press that the money was repaid only after weeks of refusals to do so, and Redford “only relented after tensions within her caucus spilled into the public realm.”
The fallout over the Mandela funeral trip had led to further scrutiny, with subsequent revelations of Redford’s expenses to promote the province and questionable spending, while her government was making public service cuts. This led to charges that she was abusing her political power with a culture of entitlement.
On March 19, 2014, Redford announced that she would resign as premier of Alberta, effective March 23, 2014. She was succeeded by deputy premier Dave Hancock, as the interim party leader and premier until Jim Prentice was chosen as a successor at a leadership election, which was the Progressive Conservative Party’s third contest in eight years.
Further to this, Redford had announced her resignation as a Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) for Calgary-Elbow on August 6, 2014, one day before an Auditor General’s report into her travel expenses was scheduled for release.
On August 7, 2014, a report by the Auditor General of Alberta noted that as Premier, she and her office had “used public resources inappropriately,” “used public assets (aircraft) for personal and partisan purposes” and that Redford “was involved in a plan to convert public space in a public building into personal living space.”
The report concluded that these abuses arose due to an “aura of power around Premier Redford and her office and the perceptions that the influence of the office should not be questioned.”
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