Oct 02, 2022 News
…says more needed than two fire trucks and new fire station
By Davina Bagot
Kaieteur News – Even as the Government continues with its preparations for the construction of the Gas-to-Energy (GTE) project, it seems to be underestimating the dangers that can be associated with the US$2 billion venture.
This is evident as response plans known at the moment only include two new fire trucks and a new fire station at Wales, West Bank Demerara where the Natural Gas Liquids (NGL) facility and power plant are expected to be constructed.
This is so according to Shadow Oil and Gas Minister, David Patterson, who in a recent interview with this newspaper explained that there are several other mechanisms that should be put in place to respond and prepare for emergencies.
When Minister of Home Affairs, Robeson Benn was asked whether the ministry has any specific plans in place to develop the capacity of the Guyana Fire Service (GFS) to respond to emergencies at the Wales site he said, “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.” In addition, Benn insisted that the required infrastructure was already in place, while two additional water bowsers were expected to arrive. A water bowser is a trailer fitted with a tank that can carry water.
To this end, Patterson said, “The Minister’s response is simplistic and obviously he hasn’t grasped the extent of what happens when you have fire in the petroleum industry so I think he responded only thinking about a normal house fire which burns itself out and in our case in Guyana when we do fire fighting we try to stop it from spreading as opposed to extinguishing so it was a very disingenuous response.”
The former Minister of Public Infrastructure added, “That’s totally inadequate. Fire trucks and those things like that, when you have a gas fire it takes special fire equipment to combat that. Fire trucks work really well if a house is burning the water is sprayed, but it’s not the best idea if you have a gas plant or those things like that to be spraying water.”
He explained that there are special types of equipment that are required to extinguish a gas fires which work by depriving the flames of oxygen. To this end, Patterson noted that helicopters may be needed to drop fire retardants into the fire as mere fire trucks would be unable to reach a potential blaze. He said there is also a special type of foam that is used as well as explosive that when dropped into the flames suppress its strength. But in addition to the need for special fire equipment, Patterson said firefighters should also receive specific training as gas-related fires can be more dangerous.
According to him, “this is why we need more studies to be done to underline what is needed. We are bringing a very dangerous toxic product onshore and if you don’t see the need to protect the citizens and the environment in the case of a peril by developing a professional master plan of how you are going to respond then obviously he is not competent enough to discuss or administer that sector.”Patterson went on to argue that the subject of gas related fires is not a “typical issue” but warrants a full response plan. Part of the plan he outlined, should include evacuation procedures for not only employees at the Wales site, but also for the residents who may be within close proximity to the facility.
On the other hand, the former Minister pointed out that Government must also consider how it intends to mobilise equipment for responding to a potential emergency at the site. He explained that the bulk of firefighting equipment is currently located in Region Four, which means that fire trucks would have to cross the Demerara Harbour Bridge (DHB) to be of assistance. That, however, is not the problem, Patterson said, as he pointed to the existing weight restrictions on the DHB. He explained that the trucks would have to skillfully maneuver the traffic before arriving in Region Three to then load up with water since the bridge would only allow vehicles weighing no more than 18 tonnes to cross.
“There are so many other factors, like what is the fallout if gas burns? It’s supposed to be clean but what are the environmental impacts from that fire? These are all the things that should be studied in a holistic way. We need to know what can happen, how you would prevent it and how you can treat it. All of this is supposed to be done before you are given a permit. If there is an explosion, what is the radius that would be affected? These are the things we want to know. Are the residents of Wales outside of the explosion blast? If not what precautions do we have to take? What insurances do we have to have in place to cover these people,” Patterson enquired.
The GTE project will entail three components inclusive of the pipeline, a Natural Gas Liquids (NGL) facility to treat and separate the gas and a power plant to generate 300 megawatts of electricity.
The project has a planned life cycle of at least 25 years.
The Government of Guyana has been assured by American oil major, ExxonMobil that it will not walk away from any accidents that arise at the US$1.3 billion gas pipeline that is part of the administration’s GTE scheme, geared at slashing electricity costs by 50 percent.
The developer is yet to submit a Gas Leak Management Plan for the pipeline which is expected to start construction this month. Exxon is still awaiting a Permit from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to begin these works. In the meantime, this newspaper understands that government too has submitted its plans to the regulator body which will determine whether an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) will be required.
The GTE project will involve capturing associated gas produced from crude oil production operations on the Liza Phase 1 (Destiny) and Liza Phase 2 (Unity) Floating, Production, Storage, and Offloading (FPSO) vessels, transporting approximately 50 million standard cubic feet per day.
Exxon has to put up a sign board across the Demerara Harbour Bridge to tell Guyanese what % of revenue we are getting from the Stabroek Block!
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