Jul 18, 2022 News
Kaieteur News – The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) continues to boast of its capabilities to remotely monitor the flaring of gas, by oil giant ExxonMobil, however while the regulator claims to have hands on this information, the public is being denied access to same.
This is the view of Energy Technologist, Mr. Alfred Bhulai. Bhulai, who holds a degree in Applied Chemistry (U.G) and Engineering (Technical University of Berlin) in a recent exclusive interview with Kaieteur News explained that transparency is a critical aspect in the governance of the oil and gas sector for several reasons, such as assuring the public that the company’s operations are safely ongoing.
Guyanese are however being denied this comfort of being assured of the safety of the activities ongoing in its backyard, as the EPA continues to deny the public of information as it regards offshore natural gas flaring. Bhulai told this publication that at a recent public hearing hosted by the Environmental Assessment Board (EAB), the regulator was present and was again asked to share the flaring record of the oil giant.
He explained, “I went to the one with the Coverden appeal and I repeated that we don’t get these things out of the EPA and I look forward, I mean the EAB did a good job at that hearing but the EPA doesn’t seem as yet to be coming up with the goods. They are stilling hiding information.”
In April, the Energy Technologist inked a letter to Kaieteur News, pointing out among other things that a request for data on flaring was still ignored by the EPA after waiting more than a year. To this end, Bhulai was asked whether he would consider reminding the agency of his request and general concerns, when he responded in the negative.
He was keen to point out, “In any given country, there are only certain people who would be capable of understanding the importance of the data. With the data we would be able to verify that Exxon is actually doing what it says its doing. We would know things like how much is actually flared. Right now, there is some petroleum website that tells you but it’s not up to date. Its months, or maybe even a year behind on data.”
With the time gap on the website, Bhulai, a former representative of Transparency Institute Guyana Inc (TIGI) said that the oil company may be granted access to fudge the numbers. “They could fudge the data and the overall total would be right, but they can smooth out that data so that it doesn’t look bad as though they are overstepping in certain areas,” he explained.
Only last Monday, the Minister of Natural Resources, Vickram Bharrat said that tests are being carried out on ExxonMobil’s flash gas compressor for the Liza Destiny Floating Production Sharing and Offloading (FPSO) Vessel, that encountered mechanical issues since the startup of oil production in December 2019.
He reported that the equipment recently returned to Guyana is currently being tested to ensure it is ready to do its job. It must be noted that in the absence of this critical piece of equipment, the oil company has been flaring the associated natural gas offshore at the Liza One operation.
Bharrat in providing the update was happy to report that the country’s second FPSO, the Liza Unity has not encountered any issues as it regards flaring, as commissioning of the operations went “well”. However, when it comes to the first FPSO, he is hopeful that the issue would be resolved soon. According to the minister, “As it is now, Unity has not encountered any problems with regards to flaring. The commissioning has gone well. We are pleased with the commissioning of Unity. Destiny, as you are aware, there was an issue with the flash gas compressor. That was replaced last month and they are doing some testing on it so that, we are confident that should be resolved very soon. That is on the Destiny FPSO but there is no issue on Unity.”
In January, Kaieteur News reported that Exxon was still experiencing design issues with the gas compressor. Media and Communications Manager for ExxonMobil’s subsidiary, Esso Exploration and Production Guyana Limited (EEPGL), Janelle Persaud had disclosed that the installation of the new gas compressor for the Liza Destiny FPSO will no longer occur in January, as previously stated. Persaud said the upgraded equipment will now be installed by mid-year. Persaud said the third-stage flash gas compressor (FGC) currently on the Liza Destiny FPSO continues to operate steadily in the interim.
Persaud also noted in a brief note to Kaieteur News that flare levels are being maintained below 15 million standard cubic feet of gas per day when the Flash Gas Compression system is offline and below 7 million standard cubic feet of gas when the FGC is online. In May, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approved to renewal of the Liza One Permit, adding a mere US$5 to the penalty price for flaring. It has now moved to US$50.
Extensive research conducted by Kaieteur News shows that gas flaring contributes to climate change, which has serious implications for the human security and wellbeing globally. In fact, the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Ibadan, Ibadan, Nigeria, outlined in one of its studies, that gas flaring is actually a major source of greenhouse gases, which accelerates global warming.
It was noted that flaring releases Carbon Dioxide and Methane, the two major greenhouse gases.
Of these two, Methane is actually more harmful than Carbon Dioxide. It is also more prevalent in flares that burn at lower efficiency. Of the greenhouse gases researched so far, Kaieteur News understands that the global warming potential of a kilogramme of Methane is estimated to be 21 times that of a kilogramme of Carbon Dioxide when the effects are considered. The University of Ibadan study also noted that flaring contributes to local and regional environmental problems, such as acid rain with attendant impact on agriculture, forests and other physical infrastructure.
The acid rain results in environmental degradation, which includes soil and water contamination and roof erosion. Furthermore, there have been over 250 identified toxins released from flaring including carcinogens such as benzopyrene, benzene, carbon disulphide (CS2), carbonyl sulphide (COS) and toluene; metals such as mercury, arsenic and chromium; sour gas with Hydrogen Sulfide (H2S) and Sulfur Dioxide (SO2); Nitrogen oxides (NOx); Carbon dioxide (CO2); and methane (CH4) which contributes to the greenhouse gases. The agency had collected over $930M in flaring fees since introducing the flaring fee arrangement.
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