Jan 22, 2021 News
By Mikaila Prince
Kaieteur News – Oil supermajor, ExxonMobil, is planning for ten Floating, Production, Storage and Offloading (FPSO) vessels offshore Guyana. With those ten FPSOs, former Director of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Dr.
Vincent Adams, projects that the US oil giant would be dumping about two million barrels of toxic, produced water into Guyana’s pristine ocean, if Guyana allows it.
Produced water is a term used in the oil industry to describe water that is produced during the extraction of oil and natural gas. It is a kind of brackish and saline substance filled with minerals and brought to the surface from deep underground.
Dr. Adams made these and other comments during a Moray House Trust virtual discussion titled, Guyana’s Oil: Priorities for 2021, last Saturday. There, the former EPA Director indicated that based on his perusal of data from the Payara Environmental Permit, Exxon – which flashes itself as an effective manager of its waste – is expecting to dump 200,000 barrels of produced water per day. Multiply that by ten, and Dr. Adams indicates that it would amount to two million barrels of toxic water being dumped into Guyana’s ocean, which can leave significant environmental damage, placing marine life and ecosystems at peril.
It should also be noted that Dr. Adams’ two-million-barrel projection appears to be based on an assumption that all FPSOs moving forward will have similar specifications as Liza Two and Payara.
During the virtual discussion, Dr. Adams also weighed in that the produced water is allowed to contain “.42 milligrams per litre of oil,” and with the dumping of about two million barrels per day, about 80 barrels of oil would also be thrown into the ocean.
“On top of that,” he added, “the temperature of the water that is being dumped is like 55 degrees centigrade. The temperature of the ocean is about 20-23 degrees centigrade. Now that’s about two and a half times, so you cannot tell me that and make public statements that are totally, as far as I am concerned is irresponsible to say,” as he referenced claims by President of ExxonMobil Guyana, Alistair Routledge, who had said that the water has no effect on the environment. Despite Routledge’s claim, the company has never actually reported doing a study.
Environmental impacts of produced water and drilling waste from Norwegian offshore petroleum industry
According to an Elsevier report titled, Marine Environmental Research, authored by Torgeir Bakke, Jarle Klungsøyr, Steinar Sanni, operational discharges of produced water and drill cuttings from offshore oil and gas platforms are a continuous source of contaminants to the continental shelf ecosystems. This 2013 piece had sought to review research on the biological effects of such discharges with focus on the Norwegian Continental Shelf, with the greatest concern linked to effects of produced water.
To this, the piece had articulated that hydrocarbons from produced water had accumulated in Codfish and Blue Mussels that were caged near outlets. These hydrocarbons, however, were rapidly metabolized in Codfish. Further, it stated that these chemicals may disturb reproductive functions and affect several chemicals, biochemical and genetic biomarkers. Water-based cuttings may seriously affect biomarkers in filter-feeding bivalves, a type of mollusk, and cause elevated sediment oxygen consumption and mortality in various organisms found on the seabed, the article had said.
One should be mindful that no two wells are the same. The disturbances caused by produced water from one well from the Norwegian Continental Shelf would not necessarily be the same as disturbances caused by produced water offshore Guyana. Even the disturbances caused by produced water at the Liza well may be different from the disturbances caused by produced water at Payara well. This uncertainly, however, should be the driving for Exxon and its partners to assess the impact of produced water on Guyana’s ocean life.
“Reinjection of that water has to be the only option” – Dr. Adams
With aims of protecting Guyana’s marine life and environment, Dr. Adams was adamant that Exxon must re-inject the extracted, toxic water, while admonishing the US-oil giant for misleading the public after it said that the World Bank recommended that it should dump the water into the ocean.
“That is a lie,” he said. “The World Bank never recommended the discharge of water in the ocean. The World Bank said, however, that that has to be the last resort if it is not technically or financially feasible. Well, we know that it is technically feasible and you cannot tell me that it is not financially feasible.”
It would cost Exxon $300M to re-inject the produced water in the Payara well, Dr. Adams reminded, while weighing in that, “You’re telling me that the lives and the health and safety of the environment of the Guyanese people are not worth $300M when you’re making tens of billions, or even hundreds of billions of dollars?”
It is against this background that Dr. Adams said, “Reinjection of that water has to be to the only option.”
Notably, Dr. Adams had been leading the charge for ExxonMobil to have in place, the relevant technology to re-inject any and all toxic water extracted during the oil production process. However, he was fired by the Irfaan Ali administration before he could see this and other environmental issues regarding the Payara project to fruition.
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