Jul 21, 2022 News
35-well Stabroek Block campaign…
– approach spells danger for Guyana – former EPA Head
By Davina Bagot
Kaieteur News – The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has ruled that a 35-well exploration drilling campaign that US oil giant ExxonMobil has applied for will not, by itself, significantly affect the environment. However, the former head of the EPA, Dr. Vincent Adams believes that this decision could spell danger for Guyana.
He presented his reasons during an exclusive interview with this publication on Tuesday evening. To begin with, Dr. Adams pointed out that a Cumulative Impact Assessment (CIA) for the project has been ordered by the EPA, but this study is usually included in an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), which points out the dangers that can be caused as a result of a specific project, as well as point to mitigative measures.
Importantly, the former Executive Director for the regulator body explained that the EPA’s decision to merely order a CIA is not enough for such a rigorous campaign to be pursued. In fact, this new campaign may entail the highest number of wells to be drilled to date by the developer in one project.
The drilling of the exploration/appraisal well(s) in the Stabroek Block is expected to potentially occur simultaneously with other drilling activities, including: The Liza Phase 1 Project well drilling and production operations; The Liza Phase 2 Development Project well drilling programme and production operations; The Payara Development Project well drilling programme, installation, and start of production; Ongoing exploration/appraisal well drilling operations in the Stabroek Block covered under a 25-well campaign approved on October 1, 2019; The Yellowtail Development Project well drilling programme and installation operations; and two 12-well campaigns in the Kaieteur and Canje oil blocks for which environmental authorisation is currently being sought.
The cumulative impacts of a project, as explained by Environmentalist, Simone Mangal-Joly, has to do with a project developer considering ongoing or potential projects to occur within the district of that planned development. For instance, she said, “A cumulative impact assessment would entail considering the project itself along with the presence of other factors or stressors in that environment. For example, if you are putting a factory in a place where they have two other factories you must not only think of the pollution coming from your factory but also think of how it’s going to add up with the pollution coming from the other two factories to affect people and the environment.”
To this end, Dr. Vincent Adams has argued that the new campaign must be subject to an EIA, as the EPA does not have information to determine the significance of this development. For one, he reasoned that each new reservoir that is drilled contains different pressures. As such, he explained that Exxon would not know what to expect at the new locations to be drilled. “It’s dangerous because we don’t know the characteristics of the well. The EPA claims that these impacts are known but this absolutely cannot be so! They (EPA) said that the impacts would be local, but do they think that the pressures beneath the surface care about staying local? When Exxon goes to punch a hole into a new reservoir, they are now going to find out what is there, so they themselves don’t know.”
The EPA in a notice to the public shared that, “It has been determined that the proposed project/activity, by itself will not significantly affect the environment. The reasons for this decision include: the impacts from the proposed project/activity will be temporary; and the impacts from the proposed project/activity will be localised.”
However, the former Agency head is of a different view, arguing that the impacts of exploration wells pose the highest risk due to the developer launching into new zones. To this end, he told Kaieteur News that an EIA would be the best decision in the interest of ensuring safety of the environment.
He argued, “The CIA is just part of the whole study that should be required. How are they going to address the other risks involved in the project? Based on what information are they saying that the impacts would be local when they don’t even know anything about this reservoir? How did they determine this? This is not even one well, this is 35.”
In further presenting his point, Dr. Adams noted that the EPA must be able to defend the reason for the decision made, since it is impossible to conclude that possible impacts from the 35-well campaign would be local and temporary.
According to him, “They need to show us the documents that they used to make this decision. Are they using some past document? What does localised mean? It cannot be localised because if they have a spill during the operation, the spill will not stay localised and when you say temporary, nothing there is temporary.”
He is adamant that an environmental impact assessment would, for example, consider worst case scenarios for such events and help dive into what may be considered the unknown presently.
35- well Stabroek Block drilling campaign
The Project Summary for the ambitious campaign was uploaded to the regulator’s website on Friday last, while the Screening Report compiled by the EPA for the project was uploaded on the same day then amended and updated on Sunday.
The document explains, “The exact locations of the 35 exploration/appraisal wells comprising the Project have not yet been finalised. While some of the 35 wells will be drilled for exploration purposes, it is also possible that some of the wells may be drilled as appraisal wells within the proximity of previously drilled exploration areas. Therefore, four areas of interest have been identified within the Stabroek Block as the possible locations for the proposed 35 exploration/appraisal wells to occur.”
EEPGL, commonly referred to as ExxonMobil Guyana, intends to commence the 35 well campaign in the third quarter of 2023, signalling that if discoveries are made, well tests may be performed. Conclusion of the proposed drilling campaign is expected by the fourth quarter of 2028.
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