Dec 20, 2020 News
Kaieteur News – Today marks one year since ExxonMobil began producing oil at its Liza One operations, in the Stabroek Block, about 100 miles offshore. It should have been a momentous occasion as it signifies the first commercial oil venture in Guyana.
However, there are too many worrying signs. Aside from the country being ill-prepared to manage the sector, ExxonMobil continues to harm the environment by flaring billions of cubic feet of natural gas toxic gas at its Liza One operations.
What’s even more of a concern is that to date, the US oil giant has not publicly set a date in sight for the flaring to be cut down to zero.
Kaieteur News had reported in its 16th November edition that Head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Sharifah Razack, had provided details which showed that Exxon had ramped up flaring to 16.496 million standard cubic feet of gas per day in October – an increase from the 15 million cubic feet per day in previous months.
This information is consistent with statements made by Hess’ representatives during its 2020 third quarter earnings call. The Stabroek Block co-venturer had indicated at the end of October that it was happy to inform its shareholders that production rates at Liza Phase One have increased to 105,000 barrels of oil per day in the few weeks prior.
Before that, public knowledge was that Exxon’s production was hovering around 80,000 to 90,000 barrels of oil per day, as was the case in September.
Kaieteur News, last week, had reached out to EPA Head Razack requesting updates for Exxon’s December flaring, since she had indicated that she receives regular reports from the US oil company. Those details were supposed to be lodged with this publication on Friday but were not. Razack has, however, assured Kaieteur News that same would be done by tomorrow.
Of concern, due to ExxonMobil’s ramp-up of toxic gas flaring at the Liza Phase One operation, so much has been emitted that Guyana is now one of the top five countries in the world for volume flared per year, per capita.
In September, Guyana had trailed Libya, Gabon, Oman, Qatar and Iraq, in total gas flared per capita, judging from statistics from the World Bank’s Global Gas Flaring Tracker Report (July, 2020).
However, the increased flaring in October caused Guyana to surpass Iraq.
It is important to note that Guyana’s total volume flared in a year is not as high as Iraq, which is one of the worst polluters in the world, alongside Russia and the United States.
However, due to Guyana’s small population, it is emitting more toxic gas per head than those three countries. Russia and the US emitted 161 and 53 cubic metres per capita, last year, respectively. Iraq emitted 456 cubic metres per capita last year, behind Guyana’s emissions in the past year, which stand at an average rate of 461 cubic metres per capita. This would equate to the destruction of 2.17 acres of forest for every Guyanese, or 1.56 million acres of forest in total.
ExxonMobil’s flaring was only supposed to occur at project startup in December last year, to test the equipment.
However, flaring went way past the project startup. The company claimed it had to flare, since its gas compression equipment was defective and needed to undergo repairs overseas.
The repairs reportedly proved difficult to undergo with haste, given limitations the COVID-19 pandemic safety guidelines have placed on companies. Exxon is yet to complete the repairs to all of its defective equipment.
According to the EPA brief, ExxonMobil said that it started up the second main gas compressor in October, and operated it along with the main gas compressor and the injection gas compressor. The third stage-flash gas compressor and suction silencer have been repaired in Germany and were returned to the Liza Destiny Floating Production, Storage and Offloading Vessel (FPSO) in late October.
It is being reinstalled, and is expected to restart in mid-November. Exxon, according to the November update, expects the equipment to take one to two weeks of testing to confirm that the repairs and modifications worked.
Some have pointed out that Exxon’s snail’s pace in repairing the defective gas compressor is another clear example of the company’s disregard for Guyana, its laws and the environment. These comments arose after Exxon had spent USD$186M to fix flaring at a Scottish plant, late last year.
Dangers of flaring
Research by Kaieteur News has found that the flaring of gas is extremely damaging to the environment. A special study conducted by the World Bank notes that flaring releases more than 250 toxins including cancer causing agents such as benzopyrene, benzene, carbon disulphide (CS2), carbonyl sulphide (COS), and toluene. It also releases metals such as mercury, arsenic, and chromium and nitrogen oxides.
The burning of the gas is damaging to the environment. It tends to destabilise the greenhouse effect, a natural process which involves a delicate balancing act between the radiation coming into and leaving the earth’s atmosphere. This balancing act is tipped over when increasing levels of greenhouse gases, much of which is caused by oil production, is released into the atmosphere, resulting in global warming.
Flaring is also hazardous to human health. Nigerian scientists, Omosivie Maduka and Charles Tobin-West, in a joint paper lodged with the US National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), had explained that flaring in the Niger Delta area of Nigeria has polluted the air and water, and precipitate the formation of acid rain. All of this, they said, has caused negative outcomes in the communities there, including chronic and recurrent respiratory diseases, abnormalities in the blood, increased susceptibility to certain diseases of the blood and others.
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