…Payara EIA is similarly flawed
By Kemol King
Past Director of the National Gas Company of Trinidad & Tobago (NGC) and Sustainability Engineer, Mr. Cathal Singh has said that the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for Exxon’s first development in the Stabroek Block, Liza Phase One, would not have passed the T&T regulator, as there are fundamental flaws. In Guyana’s case, the Liza-1 permit was approved on the very day that the company submitted its 1500-page EIA.
What makes matters worse is that the same flaws exist in the Liza-2 and Payara (third well) plans.
Singh appeared on Kaieteur Radio’s Petroleum 101 on Tuesday night, where he and Environmentalist, Annette Arjoon-Martins, spoke about threats to the environment, in the context of Guyana’s oil & gas sector.
Singh’s time with NGC forms part of more than two decades of work under his belt, during which he has served several governments on matters of sustainability. The environmental issues faced by Guyana, due to the operations of ExxonMobil in the Stabroek Block place the country in a “difficult situation,” Singh told Kaieteur Radio.
He said, “I have been through the EIA document for the Liza One. I think that there are many issues with it, that it would not have passed our regulation in Trinidad for fundamental reasons.”
The biggest issue Singh noted that he thought of at the time is the cumulative impact of managing liquid waste on the Floating Production, Storage and Offloading (FPSO) vessels. Kaieteur News had reported that ExxonMobil is dumping about 4,000 barrels of produced water into the ocean every day. This is water that comes up with the oil that is being pumped from under the ground.
“With liquid waste,” Singh said, “the produced water is water that was there millions and millions of years ago when the water was compressed and isolated below the ground. That water has everything that you can imagine in it, from metals to radioactive material… It’s a very long list of chemicals that are in that water.”
The produced water, according to the World Bank’s advice on the best practice, should be reinjected. At this juncture, the extent of the impact of that water being dumped into the oceans is not known.
President of ExxonMobil Guyana, Alistair Routledge had said that the company wants to continue dumping the liquids into the ocean, as the produced water is treated and has no effect on the environment.
Routledge’s claim in this regard, finds conflict with the fact that no such information supporting it has been lodged with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and no study was ever commissioned to make such a determination.
Singh said on Petroleum 101 that the liquid waste being discharged is a high volume which could be as high as 50 times the amount of oil being produced, depending on the age of the reservoir, and that Guyana really cannot entertain assumptions about this issue without studies, least of all, what it is being told by the operator.
What Singh finds unacceptable is that Exxon is yet to pronounce on what could happen, in this regard, with the Liza-2 and Payara projects, which are meant to follow Liza-1. Liza-2 has already been permitted, and is on track for startup in 2022, while Payara awaits the approval of the Government.
“Everybody knows it’s coming, and everybody has an idea of how much oil [Liza-2 and Payara are] going to produce,” Singh said. Both of these projects would involve FPSOs with the capacity to produce almost twice as much oil per day as the Liza Destiny, making the threat to the environment potentially an even graver concern.
The Sustainability Engineer opined that what should have been done is a study of the fate and effect of the liquid pollution in the sea, to add support to the claim Routledge is making, that there is no environmental harm.
Furthermore, he said that the impact of dumping this produced water remains a legitimate issue that ought to be interrogated in the review of the Payara application. If that is not done, then that uncertainty is moved to the approval of the next project with the next FPSO.
“I think that that’s not a good way to start playing the game,” Singh stated.
Matters like this one, and the flaring of billions of cubic feet of gas at the Liza Destiny, still plague the Payara project which Exxon hopes the government will accept with haste. EPA Head, Dr. Vincent Adams, who has been sent on leave by the Irfaan Ali administration, has attempted to have these matters fixed, but the company has shown reluctance to resolving these issues, as it insists that better safeguards would be too costly.
Singh said that Exxon has to publicly answer for the deficiencies of the EIAs that have passed, and that it must articulate on paper how it will treat these issues in the current EIA.
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