Aug 09, 2022 News
Kaieteur News – As Government pushes the oil companies operating here to speed up production to meet the world’s energy demand, in light of the crisis caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, this also brings into focus, the need for more robust oversight of environmental safeguards.
Leading the call to this end is the former Executive Director of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Dr. Vincent Adams. Though he has migrated to the United States, Adams has been an advocate for good governance and management of the country’s oil and gas sector in particular. In a letter to the Editor, Dr. Adams, a retired Environmental Engineer and former Manager at the United States Department of Energy, reasoned that since the EPA seems to be making strides towards becoming transparent, it would be prudent for the agency to provide the Guyanese public with monthly data on the exploitation of its oil resource.
For instance, he noted that monthly reports on the amount of oil produced; the amount of water produced; sea water injected and the total amount of produced water being dumped into the sea should be made public. Further, the former EPA boss said that citizens also deserve to know the amount of gas produced, re-injected and used for other purposes on the two Floating Production Storage and Offloading (FPSO) Vessels, currently in operation.
Currently, crude is being produced at the Liza One and Two fields by the Liza Destiny and Liza Unity FPSOs, respectively. A third drillship is expected to come on stream next year, one year earlier than expected. In the mean time, ExxonMobil has reported production rates of 140,000 barrels of oil per day (bopd) at the Liza One site, while the second project is said to be safely pumping 220,000 bopd.
Dr. Adams in a previous interview explained that each well, that oil is drawn from, contains a different gas to oil ratio. Similarly, each project will generate different amounts of produced water. This means that the technical data must be provided by the EPA to the public, as in the absence of these statistics, one would only be allowed to make estimates regarding possible pollution.
During oil production, a dangerous and highly hazardous substance referred to as produced water is also brought up. It contains dissolved mineral salts, or it may be mixed with organic compounds such as acids, waxes, and mineral oils. It may also be mixed with inorganic metals and byproducts or with trace amounts of heavy metals and naturally-occurring radioactive materials, according to the United States Department of Energy. Notably, these chemicals can pose dangers to marine life and the ecosystems in which they dwell. In addition to the content, produced water is known to be dangerous owing to its usual high or hot temperature.
Esso Exploration and Production Guyana limited (EEPGL)- the operator of the Stabroek Block and subsidiary of ExxonMobil- is required to treat the produced water before disposal into the country’s water, however the EPA does not have systems in place to ensure the company is complying with the safety requirements of the operations’ permit. The Head of the EPA Mr. Kemraj Parsram back in December last year told this newspaper that while the agency does not have systems in place to verify that ExxonMobil is doing its part to keep the environment safe, the EPA would from time to time visit, to ensure that the company is carrying out this requirement.
He explained, “The EPA has, with any operation, conducts periodic monitoring exercises at all offshore facilities”. Even more surprisingly, EPA said that the agency relies on the company to submit daily reports to the Government of Guyana, which includes adherence to discharge parameters. If any flaws are highlighted in these reports, only then would the agency act.
According to him, “The data in this report is processed by the EPA to monitor and determine trends or any anomalies or deviations from standards set in permit”.
Back then, Parsram assured that the agency is in the process of strengthening its capabilities to conduct “real time” environmental monitoring offshore Guyana.
It was reported that a loan that was taken by the government from the World Bank to boost monitoring capabilities of locals was shelved after the former Coalition government demitted office. Up to late last month, the Natural Resources Minister, Vickram Bharrat could only say that the US$20M Guyana Petroleum Resources Governance and Management Project was still being refined.
The programme recommended strengthening of the Guyana National Bureau Standards (GNBS) for real time monitoring and being present on the FPSOs. Some 34 specialists were to be trained to offer 24/7 monitoring of the operations. Bharrat, while insisting that project was not scrapped, said that the department grew from three members of staff to 13 presently, which are dedicated full time towards monitoring oil and gas activities.
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