Sep 27, 2021 News
– Another 12 well campaign planned with no need for Environmental Impact Assessment
Kaieteur News – The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently reported that an application for Environmental Authorisation has been submitted by Esso Exploration and Production Guyana Ltd., ExxonMobil’s subsidiary, to execute a 12 well exploration campaign on the offshore Kaieteur block.
In accordance with Section 11(2) of the Environmental Protection Act, the EPA said the application for the project was screened by the agency to assess the potential environmental impacts. Following this, the EPA said it has been determined that the project will not significantly affect the environment or human health and therefore exempted from the requirement of an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA).
The agency said its decision was made following careful consideration of the review of existing environmental baseline information of the Kaieteur Block which was collected via two separate assessments in 2019 and 2020; and the conduct of similar campaigns in the Stabroek, Canje, and Kaieteur Blocks.
“Therefore, in the interest of sound environmental management, the agency will require the preparation and submission of an Environmental Assessment and Management Plan (EAMP) for this project. The EAMP will be guided by a Terms and Scope prepared by the Agency,” the EPA noted.
It further stated that Esso would be required to include a Cumulative Impact Assessment considering possible impacts on the environment and/or human health, and detail specific mitigation measures to be undertaken in order to ensure that the proposed project is implemented in an environmentally-sound and sustainable manner.
In keeping with the Environmental Protection Act and the Environmental Protection (Authorisations) Regulations, 2000, any person who may be affected by the proposed project may lodge an appeal against the Agency’s decision—to not require an EIA—with the Environmental Assessment Board before the end of October.
Kaieteur News understands that appeals and comments should be addressed to: The Environmental Assessment Board’s Executive Director at the Environmental Protection Agency, Ganges Street, Sophia, Georgetown, Guyana.
This newspaper had previously reported that the EPA has since noted that no EIA is required for another 12 well programme Esso plans to conduct in the Canje block which borders the Kaieteur and Stabroek Block.
If both projects are allowed to push through, ExxonMobil will be drilling a total of 24 wells offshore Guyana, starting this year. This will be occurring alongside ExxonMobil’s aggressive oil exploration and development campaign in the Stabroek Block.
CALLS FOR INVESTIGATION
For several years, this newspaper was at the forefront of calls for there to be a thorough, independent investigation into the award of two blocks, Kaieteur and Canje, since several industry stakeholders who examined the matter, concluded that they were awarded under suspicious circumstances.
With respect to the Kaieteur Block, this publication previously reported that it was awarded by former President, Donald Ramotar on April 28, 2015, just two weeks before the 2015 general and regional elections on the advice of former Minister of Natural Resources, Robert Persaud. Two companies received the block with 50-50 stakes, Ratio Energy Limited (now Cataleya Energy Limited) and Ratio Guyana Limited.
Ratio Energy was incorporated in Gibraltar on April 15, 2013, and registered in Guyana on October 23, later that year. Independent watchdog, Global Witness, had said in its damning report ‘Signed Away’ (which was subsequently pulled by the organisation), that at the time of receipt of the block, the company was owned by an Israeli-based lawyer named Richard Roberts.
Ratio Energy’s name was then changed on August 3, 2017, after it received the Kaieteur Block. Its two directors are Canadian, Michael Cawood and Guyanese, Ryan Perreira, who have experience in mining.
Cawood’s LinkedIn page lists him as Cataleya’s Director and Chief Executive Officer. Pereira’s LinkedIn page lists him as Cataleya’s Director and Co-founder.
Research also revealed that Perreira has a history of collaboration with Cawood’s Riva Gold Corporation. In 2010, agreements were announced meant to allow Riva the option to acquire the rights to certain groups of mineral properties in Guyana, specifically gold. Importantly, neither of these men had any experience in oil exploration to talk about prior to Cataleya’s receipt of the Kaieteur block.
The other initial owner of the Kaieteur block is Ratio Guyana, a subsidiary of the Israeli company, Ratio Petroleum. The parent company has been active in the oil industry for decades.
Subsequent investigations showed that when Cataleya and Ratio Petroleum got the Kaieteur Block, they quickly sold it off piece by piece to ExxonMobil and later on to Westmount, without doing any work. In fact, Cataleya and Ratio Petroleum each sold 25 percent of their Kaieteur Block ownership to ExxonMobil in March 1, 2017. ExxonMobil then sold part of its stake to Hess in April, 2018. Global Witness had said it gathered from Ratio Petroleum’s website that the companies didn’t even conduct seismic work before ExxonMobil bought its share. It was only months after Exxon bought into the block that the oil major started a seismic survey. Exxon’s work revealed that the Kaieteur Block has an estimated 2.1 billion oil-equivalent barrels.
Further to the fact that the original owners quickly sold portions of the block despite commitments in the Production Sharing Agreement to undertake several exploration activities, this newspaper had shown that the owners of the Kaieteur Block had set the stage for secrecy in their acquisition of the block by incorporating in a jurisdiction notorious for financial secrecy. The use of secrecy jurisdictions like Gibraltar is what allowed the companies to keep the details of their transactions with ExxonMobil under the radar.
In addition to the aforementioned, this newspaper had exposed that while Ratio Guyana’s parent company, Ratio Petroleum, has nearly three decades of experience in the industry, it does not have the capacity to conduct ultra-deepwater drilling, which is required for the Kaieteur acreage. Only a handful of oil companies have the capacity to drill in ultra-deepwater, including ExxonMobil, Royal Dutch Shell, Chevron, BP, and Total SE. Ultra deepwater has been closed to drilling for decades because companies just didn’t have the technology and the experience. Besides, there was a lot more oil and gas accessible in shallower waters.
Though the foregoing points among others were brought to the attention of Vice President, Dr. Bharrat Jagdeo, last year November, he was adamant that no corruption took place. He even stated that no laws were broken. Furthermore, he expressed confidence in former President, Donald Ramotar, who signed the Kaieteur and Canje agreements away in 2015, just before he was ousted by the David Granger coalition in that year’s election.
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