Nov 25, 2021 News
—warns of safety breaches, violation of EIA guidelines
By Davina Bagot
Kaieteur News – Former Head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Dr. Vincent Adams has flagged ExxonMobil’s increase in production aboard the Liza Destiny vessel without conducting a fresh Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) to examine the possible effects of same. He said such a move by the oil giant does not only violate safety standards, but also increases the risk of a potential oil spill.
The current EIA states that the Liza Phase One Project would be operated by the Liza Destiny vessel and produce 120,000 barrels of oil per day. This was noted to be the safe limit of production. However, the company and the government have disclosed over the past few months that production rates have been ramped up to over 124,000 barrels per day. In fact, the Bank of Guyana’s Half Year Report said production surpassed nameplate capacity at 124,941 barrels per day, an increase of 65.4 percent from the corresponding period last year. This, according to the former head of the EPA, is dangerous and must not be allowed to continue. In fact, he called for Exxon’s operations to cease immediately and for an independent investigation to be conducted.
During a news conference hosted by the Alliance For Change (AFC) on Tuesday, Adams voiced his concerns about what he described as a violation of safety standards. “The AFC is astounded by the recent public bragging of Hess’s Manager that the Liza One is consistently producing above 124,000 barrels per day, with total disregard for the EIA’s decree of the safe operating limit which is 120,000 barrels per day,” Adams highlighted.
In explaining the importance of the company adhering to the permitted safety limit, he told Kaieteur News in a subsequent interview that these increased production rates are likely to have devastating impacts on not only Guyana, but the Caribbean. Adams made reference to the fact that Exxon’s gas compressor was dysfunctional earlier this year. He said that even though the equipment was damaged, Exxon could not say whether it was as a result of the increased production rates.
“You don’t ever exceed the limit in the EIA because it is dangerous. When the compressor failed earlier this year, it was asked what the production rate was (and) they said 130,000 barrels of oil per day. So why were they producing 130,000 when they were supposed to be producing 120,000?” Adams questioned.
The former boss of the EPA said even though Exxon and its subsidiaries might be making the necessary infrastructural adjustments to facilitate the increased production, it must first be approved by the EPA, and only after consultations are done with citizens.
In fact, he noted that an addendum to the EIA must be done, or an entirely new document, which outlines the risks of drilling beyond the safety limit. “They cannot do it (increase production) unless they put an addendum to that EIA. I heard them saying that their intention is to increase the rate and I am warning the people of Guyana, they cannot change the conditions that is already prescribed in the EIA unless they go back and apply to the EPA, and then the EPA would have to put it out for public comment again,” Adams pointed out.
Further he explained: “The most important thing that an EIA does is it defines the safety envelope for operating and when the EIA says that the safe amount is 120,000 if they want to pump more than 120,001 barrels per day they have got to go back to the EPA and convince the EPA that it is safe and it has to be open to consultations. They just cannot make that decision.”
The environmental specialist expounded that 120,000 barrels of oil per day was approved based on the size of equipment, including the pipes. He said that while the 4000 barrels extra might not sound like an alarming figure, it increases the dangers in the event of an oil spill.
Additionally, the former EPA head noted that such violations by an operator indicate an unsafe culture. “If they are violating the EIA, what else are they not doing that are violating the safety standards? It tells you that their culture is highly questionable,” he reasoned.
In light of this, Adams said that Exxon’s operations should immediately cease. “If they are violating the EIA, I am calling for a shutdown of the operations and an independent investigation of their conduct of operations, because this signifies their poor safety culture,” he said. This newspaper reached out to the EPA on Wednesday to ask whether ExxonMobil has approached it to seek approval for an increased production, however no response was given. The officer said that the information will be made available as soon as it was channeled to her.
Head of Hess Corporation, John Hess revealed a few months ago that ExxonMobil is now racing to produce up to 1.2 million barrels of oil from the Stabroek Block. Chief Operating Officer (COO) of Hess Corporation, Greg Hill said that the capacity of the Liza Destiny will increase to 130,000 barrels of oil per day. He said that another capacity increase will soon follow when the vessel goes for a two week shut down in November for the installation of a new flash gas compressor system. Once this is done, the Liza Destiny would be able to produce between 140,000 barrels of oil to 150,000.
With respect to future projects, he said once they spend about a year in operation, each ship will undergo an optimization or debottlenecking exercise which would see capacity increase between 10 to 15 percent.
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