By Kemol King
Environmentalist Annette Arjoon-Martins has drawn attention to the fact that ExxonMobil’s flaring of gas at the Liza Destiny Floating Production, Storage and Offloading (FPSO) vessel threatens to have much more impact on Guyana than just the environmental cost. She said that it could have a compromising effect on Guyana’s environmental development partners who have been known to fund environmental programmes here.
To put it simply, Arjoon-Martins is of the view that though Exxon’s production of oil offshore brings home millions to Guyana, its cavalier treatment of the issue of flaring and the grave impact such pollution has on the environment is likely to cause Guyana to lose funding elsewhere.
Guyana is a carbon sink due to its vast forest cover. Norway had decided years ago to compensate Guyana for the preservation of its forests.
However, because of ExxonMobil, Guyana is among the top 10 oil producing countries releasing toxic chemicals into the environment, according to Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL).
Conservationist and World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Director of the Guianas, Dr. David Singh, had told Stabroek News in June that flaring nine billion cubic feet of natural gas – the amount calculated as of December 2019 to late June – is equivalent to the loss of 4,642 hectares of forest, which would be valued at US$24M based on the carbon price under Guyana’s forest protection pact with Norway.
To put that into perspective, Guyana received US$46M from its third crude lift at the Liza-1 project.
“Our environmental partners,” Arjoon-Martins stated, “would obviously think twice about why would they want to fund any sort of environmental programme and this is being allowed to happen.”
With such a loss from flaring, is Exxon really doing Guyana any good?
Arjoon-Martins appeared on Kaieteur Radio’s Petroleum 101 on Tuesday night, alongside Sustainability Engineer, Cathal Singh, where they discussed threats to the environment in the context of Guyana’s oil and gas sector.
She noted that her advocacy is not about opposition to the oil industry, that she supports oil production in a framework of sound regulation and mitigation of negative impacts on the environment.
Where Exxon’s flaring is concerned, more than 10B cubic feet of gas has been flared at the Liza Phase One project. Exxon claims that it is due to a defective gas compressor currently undergoing repairs in Germany. The company is yet to put a timeline on the halting of its environmental infraction.
Its attitude, Arjoon-Martins said, is “almost disrespectful”. Kaieteur News had reported that loopholes exist in the Liza Phase One permit that ExxonMobil exploited in its interpretation, to allow it to flare.
The environmentalist said she’s sure that, at the time the EPA permitted Liza-1, there was absolutely no consideration, for the event of an emergency such as what is occurring now with the company’s eight months of flaring.
“I always maintain,” she said, “that the long-term cost of Exxon’s flaring is going to be way above what we’re valuing it at the moment… I think that Exxon could do a whole lot better.”
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