Feb 25, 2022 News
– Govt facilitating US training of locals to respond to oil spill, but refuses to press Exxon to give Guyana full coverage insurance
Kaieteur News – As Guyana prepares to ramp up its production of oil, in the absence of full coverage insurance from the major operator, ExxonMobil, the country’s capacity to respond to an oil spill is being boosted by the United States Coast Guards, although no effort seems to be made for this country to get full coverage insurance.
Public Relations Officer (PRO) of the Civil Defence Commission (CDC), Patrice Wishart in an interview with Kaieteur News on Thursday explained that the virtual training sessions which commenced last year is currently being amplified as well, since the oil operators are gearing to ramp up their production offshore too.
Wishart told this publication, “We have training going on throughout this month and next month. The US Coast Guard through the US State Department and the US government is training us… to give us oil spill response guidance in the event of such an incident”. The 28 stakeholder agencies on the National Oil Spill Committee (NOSC) are participating in the workshop. Some of these, in addition to the CDC, include the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GMC), the Maritime Administration Department (MARAD), Ministry of Health, Guyana Fire Service, Guyana Marine Conservation Society, Guyana Wildlife Conservation and Management Committee and the Guyana Hydrometeorological Service.
The PRO explained, “We have a booming oil industry and we will have a booming oil economy very soon and so we want to be prepared for it (an oil spill)…they (the US Coast Guards) have outlined in very specific detail what would happen in such an event, depending on which vessel or which offshore base has a spill. They have outlined how the oil will flow, where it will go depending on the tide, depending on the wind and that sort of things so it’s very valuable training”.
He added that “hands on” sessions were planned to give the response team a better expectation of their responsibilities but was postponed due to the Corona Virus pandemic. The training sessions are expected to conclude next month with about five more items on the agenda yet to be completed.
Kaieteur News has been told that the Maritime Administration Department will be the first responder to an offshore spill while the EPA is one of the agencies lined up for first response onshore.
As it relates to the cost of the training, Wishart said he could not confirm whether Guyana is paying the US for its services. Instead, he said, “We had a working relationship with them all along and I think what happened is that they offered and we said yes because they have years of experience and the resources and the know how to respond and they have had their incidents as well…so they know how to address these large spills”.
Since 2015, ExxonMobil Corporation, the parent company of Esso Exploration and Production Guyana Limited, has steered clear of being tied to full coverage insurance for its Stabroek Block projects, which are certain to deliver multi-billion dollar profits on an annual basis. Instead, it has placed only its subsidiary (EEPGL) on the hook should such an eventuality occur offshore. This is the state of affairs with its Liza Phase One, Liza Phase Two and Payara Projects. Following in its footsteps are Hess Corporation and CNOOC Limited, the other two joint venture companies in the Stabroek Block.
Unlike Guyana, when it comes to the regulation of its petroleum industry, Suriname authorities ensured that the requisite monitoring systems as well as the human resources needed are always in place to keep a watchful eye of every move an oil company makes with their resources.
In this way, Rudolf Elias, former Head of Staatsolie – Suriname’s National Oil Company (NOC) said the authorities of the Dutch speaking nation achieved two objectives. The first he said is that they ensured there is respect for the rules and regulations in place since “what gets regulated gets done.” And secondly, officials are able to learn and grow their knowledge based on various aspects of the sector.
Only last week the Shadow Oil and Gas Minister on the Opposition benches of the National Assembly, David Patterson submitted a Motion to Parliament calling for liability insurance coverage in the event of an oil spill disaster. According to a document seen by this publication, in his Motion tabled in the National Assembly, Patterson noted that with the number of floating production storage and offloading (FPSOs) increasing over 10 times by 2026 and oil production offshore Guyana is expected to increase rapidly from its current rate of 120,000 barrels per day (bpd) to almost one million bpd, there is a high likelihood of an oil spill occurring offshore Guyana. In this regard, the Opposition MP pointed out that Guyana’s oil spill response plan is grossly inadequate for such an emergency, cleanup and restoration.
He therefore proposed that Exxon’s fourth project, the Yellowtail Development be used as leverage by the government to ensure the country gets full coverage insurance.
The document seen by this publication said, “And Be it further Resolved that this parliament calls on the Government of Guyana, to include full unlimited liability coverage for oil spills and other disasters related to petroleum production as a condition for granting approval for the proposed Yellowtail development and all other future petroleum development.”
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