Aug 16, 2022 News
Wales Gas-to-Energy project…
By Davina Bagot
Kaieteur News – Minister of Home Affairs, Robeson Benn has assured that the Government of Guyana putting systems in place to respond to any disaster that can occur at the highly touted Wales Gas-to-Energy project.
Part of the master plan, according to him, is the construction a new fire station and procuring new vehicles to be on standby to respond to fires or explosions. The Minister in a brief telephone interview with this publication yesterday explained that the response plan is presently being developed. “We have already acquired land and there is a design and a tender or a contract has already been signed in respect of a new fire service at Wales.”
When he was asked whether the ministry has any specific plans in place to develop the capacity of the Guyana Fire Service (GFS), especially since the country has never had a gas plant of this magnitude before, he said, “we have a gas plant, at least two on the East Bank of Demerara and in relation to fires relating to petroleum including lubricants, fuel or gas, we have fire trucks which are equipped with the resources to deal with that. Obviously in relation to the question of response to a gas plant, this is why I say we are ahead of the game. We already have a design for putting in place of a new fire station in respect of the gas processing facilities, related infrastructure or businesses which can develop as a result of the gas to shore project at Wales.”
He insisted, “I already said that we have appliances which will have that capacity (to respond to gas related fires or explosions).” Benn told Kaieteur News that the GTE project will not be in operation for at least the next 18 months.
The Minister explained, “I am telling you that the infrastructure which is needed on the ground right now is the building of a new fire station, the putting in place of appliance, some of which we already have. In fact, I think today or tomorrow we are taking off three new bowsers.” A water bowser is a trailer fitted with a tank that can carry water.
Benn also pointed out that the facilities at Wales will feature its own safety equipment to respond to fires which will serve as an addition to the present response mechanisms currently in place, which some have already deemed archaic. In response to a question surrounding new, modern equipment for the fire service that may be more efficient in getting the job done, he noted, “we acquired one or two new airport type, class four fire fighting vehicles, and we already have the normal vehicles which have flare and other retardants on them.”
Meanwhile, when it comes to boosting the capacity of the manpower attached to the agency, the Minister assured that a new cohort is presently being trained at the Leonora, West Coast Demerara office. In addition, he said the government has engaged its counterparts in Brazil and Barbados to assist in boosting the capacity of the fire department here. He could not say when this training would commence.
The preparedness of the Guyana government for incidents caused as a result of the GTE project was first questioned by an Attorney-at-Law and resident of Wales, Elizabeth Deane-Hughes, following a series of explosions at a Cuba fuel depot which took five days to finally be controlled.
The blaze at the Matanzas oil facility was reportedly caused after lightning struck the facility. Matanzas is the country’s largest port for receiving crude oil and fuel imports. Cuban heavy crude, as well as fuel oil and diesel are stored in 10 huge tanks at the port and are mainly used to generate electricity on the island.
Cuban officials have described the five-day blaze as the worst in Cuba’s history. According to international reports, the fire destroyed 40 percent of the Caribbean island’s main fuel storage facility and caused enormous power outages.
It was on the evening of August 5 when the lightning struck one of the fuel storage tanks and by August 7, it had spread to a second. The fire spread to a fourth-oil tank by August 8. The fire was accompanied by huge explosions and despite efforts by Cuban firefighters supported by more than 100 Mexican and Venezuelan reinforcements, it continued ravaging until day five.
According to Cuban reports, one firefighter died and 14 went missing on Saturday when the second tank blew up, as five were reported to be in a critical condition. Firefighter Rafael Perez Garriga told Reuters on the steaming outskirts of the disaster that he worries the fire would impact the power situation in the country.
On August 9, more helicopters joined the effort to put out the fire, along with two fireboats sent by Mexico along with heavy firefighting equipment. In an invited comment on Friday, the attorney told Kaieteur News, “I saw firsthand how challenged the GFS was in dealing with the Brickdam fire and…at the end of the day, all the buildings in the compound collapsed (or) most of them except for the concrete one on the eastern side.”
To this end, she urged, “It is imperative that we understand how to handle a gas fire. I imagine its some level of specialty so it is imperative that the fire service and all other first responders to a potential gas explosion have the requisite training.”
The attorney reasoned that without the requisite training, if an explosion occurs, the public is completely unaware of how such a disaster could be contained. According to her, “we don’t know what can happen because there are wind factors to cater to…depends on what gets damaged and who gets damaged.”
It is important to note that even though the dangers associated with this project remain a major concern to the citizens of Guyanese, both the government and its partner in the project, ExxonMobil have been silent regarding insurance for the venture. Instead, the Project Manager, Friedrich Krispin assured Kaieteur News at a public consultation earlier this year that the company will not walk away from any damages caused.
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