Jun 19, 2022 News
– meanwhile Guyana allows Exxon and its partners to flare unabated
Kaieteur News – Ecuador Oil Company Petroecuador says it is working to shut down gas flares in the Amazon to comply with a court-imposed deadline, but progress is too slow for nearby communities that allege the flares cause cancer and other illnesses.
The news story covered by Reuters is being reported even as Guyana’s Government continues to allow oil Giant ExxonMobil to flare at the cost of the meagre penalty fee of approximately US $50.00 which is equivalent to GYD $10,000 for every ton of carbon dioxide flared.
Just recently with the renewal of the Liza Phase One Development permit, the issue of flaring came into sharp focus once more. It was reported that the fine was increased. However, a perusal of the specifics as presented by the EPA outlines that the fine was increased by US$5.
The oil company is now required to pay a paltry US$50 per every ton of carbon dioxide emitted through flaring, up from the US$45 that was being charged.
Exxon has been allowed to emit tons of carbon dioxide despite its dangers to the environment and ultimate human existence.
Gas flaring and consequent carbon dioxide emissions also contribute greatly to deforestation and climate change, leading to overheating, heavy rainfall and flooding as well as soil erosion.
Exxon continues this dangerous practice in Guyana unabated with the local Environment Protection Agency (EPA) giving the oil giant permission to commit an environmental felony.
In the meantime, countries like Ecuador continue its fight to stamp the dangerous environment impacts caused by flaring.
According to the Reuters report, a provincial tribunal in Sucumbios province, Ecuador last year ordered Petroecuador and a handful of private operators to stop hundreds of flares – which burn off natural gas emitted during oil production when there is no infrastructure to capture it – in inhabited areas by March 2023.
Flaring last year released 400 million tonnes of greenhouse gases globally, according to the World Bank, and researchers have warned of health problems from cancer to respiratory disease associated with the practice.
The state-owned company is hoping to find a private partner to invest in technology needed to capture the 65 million cubic feet of gas emitted daily by flares, which flame constantly above verdant tree tops.
“Part of the capturing process is trying to gradually and progressively eliminate the flares within the court’s timeframe,” Petroecuador’s head of projects, Jaime Garzon told Reuters.
The company aims to begin halting flares in inhabited areas from September in order to meet the deadline, Garzon said, and switch off rural flares within in two or three years, well ahead of an eight-year timeline imposed by the court
It should be possible to mount such capture infrastructure quickly if the right company wins the tender, former Energy Minister Fernando Santos told Reuters.
“It’s more a technical question than an investment one and if an experienced company wins the tender, they won’t have any problem,” he said.
Petroecuador already processes some 35 million cubic feet of byproduct gas every day for domestic use or electricity at its operations, but hopes eventually to process all gas emitted by its 391 flares, saving $400 million a year.
Ecuador’s energy ministry in April apologised to communities for delays in extinguishing the flares. Its private operators have some 66 flares, but the majority of that gas is already captured for electricity generation, according the energy ministry.
For residents of Sucumbios and Orellana provinces, change is coming too slowly. “This is going to kill us sooner,” said farmer Fanny Tufino, 71, whose coffee crops sit just 150 metres (500 ft) from a flare. “It affects our health a lot, for me it affected my vision.”
The case, which spurred the Sucumbios ruling, was brought by a group of local girls, who argued flaring violated their rights to health and a clean environment.
“I demand the president look at the Amazon and turn off the flares,” said Leonela Moncayo, 11, one of the plaintiffs, citing heat, dry soil, dead plants and incinerated insects near her house.
President Guillermo Lasso has not specifically commented on the flares but the energy ministry says it has spoken to operators about complying with the ruling.
There are limited enforcement tools in such cases, potentially forcing communities to seek new rulings if shutdowns are delayed.
The release of chemicals like benzene during flaring can trigger not only cancer but respiratory diseases and high blood pressure, said Alejandro Gonzalez, University of the Americas director of environmental engineering. “There’s a direct link between inhaling benzene and cancer,” said Gonzalez, adding children are most affected.
Dozens of countries and oil producers – including the United States, Russia, Ecuador and Germany – have pledged to stop routine flaring by 2030.
In Mexico, flaring has accelerated under President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, raising fears the country will miss environmental targets.
The United States, the world’s second-largest greenhouse gas emitter, last year announced plans to slash methane emissions, including from flaring, and has pursued companies accused of failing to monitor flares.
As such, the Ecuadorian government must ensure no new oil contracts allow flaring, since a study which found the incidence of cancer in areas close to oil operations was more than double the national average.
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