Jul 11, 2022 News
Kaieteur News – The Government of Guyana (GoG) and its business partner on the Gas to Energy project, ExxonMobil, is now in the process of developing an emergency response plan for natural gas related incidents.
This was confirmed yesterday by the Civil Defence Commission (CDC), one of the key agencies that will be participating in the development of the document. Mr. Loring Benons, the acting Head of the CDC told this newspaper in an exclusive interview that there is currently no emergency response plan. This is the case even though an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) has already been submitted by Exxon for the pipeline aspect of the project, and government is already moving to hire in specialists to supervise the construction of the Natural Gas Liquids (NGL) Plant and power plant.
The former Head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Dr. Vincent Adams had called out the oil company for failing to address gas leaks in its EIA, referring to such an incident as the highest hazardous risk involved, yet no details in this regard have been provided.
Nevertheless, when Benons was asked whether the CDC is already in receipt of such a plan, he explained, “No, because we are still going to some workshops and so on where that is concerned.”
He told Kaieteur News that the workshops are “planned” and have not yet commenced. However, he related that these sessions are expected to guide the development of the response plan. “Based on what comes out of those workshops we would be able to strategize because that would be different from the oil spill response activities,” Benons pointed out. He could not say when the workshops would commence to this end, but added that the CDC will be participating in the sessions alongside other government agencies such as the Ministry of Natural Resources, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Guyana Energy Agency (GEA) among others.
The acting Head of the CDC said, “The CDC is not driving this (workshop). Every agency will play a different role so when the workshop starts that is when we would have a breakdown as to who is going to be taking the lead and so on.”
An Attorney-at-Law and civil society activist, Elizabeth Deane-Hughes in an invited comment yesterday registered her concern over the fact that the government is only now rushing to draft a gas response management plan, pointing to recent incidents in the United States where natural gas explosions resulted in the evacuation of neighbouring residents.
However, she explained, “Yet still both the GoG and ExxonMobil, ExxonMobil Guyana- EEPGL (Esso Exploration and Production Guyana Limited) seem to have by some mystery, at least by desk research as no information pertaining to questions asked have been forthcoming to date, nullified the necessity for both governing legislation and regulatory framework.”
Furthermore, she reasoned, “The logic of the sequence of how events have this far in the implementation process of the GTE pipeline project indicates to me prima facie to be in the realm of deep silence emanating from both sides in the GTE pipeline project and its undertakings. We, members in civic society will keep our voices and actions seeking adherence to written instruments of process and procedure as per prima facie the governing laws of the 2016 PSA (Production Sharing Agreement).”
On Sunday, this newspaper reported that a ruptured natural gas pipeline reportedly led to an explosion at Fort Bend County, Texas in the United States on Thursday, mere days after a similar incident took place at a Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) plant on Texas’ Quintana Island.
Fox News reported that according to the Fort Bend County Pct. 1 Constable’s Office, the explosion occurred before 11 am in the 15400 block of JoAnn near FM 1952, west of Orchard.
No injuries were reported as a result of the explosion but neighbouring residents were evacuated as a precautionary measure. Another news outlet said that the explosion of the 24 inches gas pipeline caused minor grass fires in the area.
Meanwhile, Energy Transfer, the company that owns the pipeline, said the explosion happened in an isolated field and the control centre immediately secured the area.
The company later issued a statement explaining that the fire had safely burn itself out and an investigation will be launched.
On June 8, last, an NGL facility burst into flames, leaving residents rattled over the possible negative impacts they can be exposed to. No injuries were reported at the Freeport terminal, however, while authorities have said that the fire and “release” from the explosion were swiftly contained, residents who live near the facility fear they will be kept in the dark.
The natural gas explosions come at a time when Guyana is rushing to setup its own LNG plant at Wales, West Bank Demerara in partnership with oil giant, ExxonMobil. An EIA for the project has already been submitted to the local authorising body, the EPA. Notably, this document has said that Guyana will not be immune to gas explosions at the site, listing the activity as a likely event.
But even though US$1.3 billion will be expended to merely set up the onshore and offshore pipeline works for the facility, along with other ancillary works, Guyana has no insurance from the developer, should such an event occur. In fact, Exxon has not even submitted a Gas Leak Management Plan to the EPA for considerations to be made in the permitting process. Instead, Exxon has promised to have the document ready about a year before the plant starts its operations at Wales. In addition, the Gas-to-Energy Project Manager, Mr. Friedrich Krispin has indicated that Exxon and its partners will not walk away from any accidents, but will help Guyana should an unfortunate event take place at the proposed facility.
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