Jan 15, 2023 Editorial
Kaieteur News – Guyana’s fifth oil project is already indicating that it has a few booby traps. A real Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) was completed, 3,000 plus pages, and a few things registered alarmingly. It is that this project has some dangerous fangs that could bite us devastatingly, if the greatest care is not applied, becomes the standard. This is to ensure that American oil supergiant, ExxonMobil, adheres closely to the rules, and it is vigilantly monitored, so that Guyana is protected.
The EIA for the pending fifth oil project, Uaru, houses some destructive capabilities. Like all oil projects, especially deepwater ones, there are great risks. Though deepwater projects have been around for years, they still remain prone to human error, miscalculation, cutting corners by oil companies, misinterpretation, and recklessness in the haste to produce at breakneck speed, and reap record profits. Guyanese authorities and citizens do well to remember BP, the operator, and Transocean the drilling contractor, and what exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, at a well called Macondo and involving the Deepwater Horizon oil rig. There were fatalities, serious injuries, and some 4 million barrels of hydrocarbon spilled. It stands as a stark warning for Guyana. May nothing like that ever be the fate of this hopeful nation.
In Guyana, we have ExxonMobil ruling the oil roost, and its partnership with this country does not inspire any trust. Financial robberies aside, ExxonMobil flares gas into the atmosphere, and Guyana does not have the fullest grasp of how much, why, and when. ExxonMobil reportedly had a single barrel oil spill months ago, and no citizen knows what was investigated, what official reports were issued. ExxonMobil has two advantages in these regards. First, the company operates 120 miles offshore, which is the moon as far as Guyana is concerned, so limited are the resources of this new oil producing nation to monitor what ExxonMobil is doing. The second plus for ExxonMobil is that the Government of Guyana is committed to chronic secrecies in its stewardship of the nation’s oil wealth. Put these two factors (alone) together, and this is tailormade for ExxonMobil to push the risk envelope, and run its rackets in Guyana’s offshore oilfields. These could be extremely costly to this country, which is what the comprehensive EIA done has documented.
We single out three points of note from this EIA, all of which are worrying. The first is that this fifth project can devastate the region in the event of a catastrophic blowout at the Uaru field. The economies and way of life of several countries can be severely impacted, including Trinidad, Aruba, and Curacao, among others. Should a massive oil spill take a particular form and path, Trinidad looks most vulnerable to crippling negative impacts. The second point of note from the EIA is that our fisherfolk are in for a hard time, one much more difficult than what they are experiencing currently. A traditional sector of employment, livelihood, and marine food supplies all look highly likely to be in for some real tough times. Yet the Guyana Government is barreling ahead, without insisting that the necessary protections are in place.
One is proper insurance coverage. The numbers heard, including US$2.5B, would prove to be a drop in the bucket, should a blowout occur at Uaru. The time and space that Guyana needs to learn at an accelerated pace have not been allowed by the PPPC Government, as it rushes at breakneck speed (in tandem with, or at the command of, ExxonMobil) to approve new projects. This is not just unwise, but reeks of recklessness, if not madness.
The third point that sneaked stealthily into Guyanese consciousness is that this fifth project is estimated to cost US$12.6B, which is in the trillions, when counted in Guyana dollars. It is astonishing that the Guyana Government is now aware of risks, costs, and other effects, and could still be hustling to approve this fifth project. We know so little about oil, yet we are racing ahead uncaringly. There is more to this in PPPC Government and ExxonMobil circles than any EIA can absorb, document, and publicize. It is the cunning and calculating human factor, and it can be harmful to Guyanese.
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