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Feb 04, 2023 News
– Key questions on options for excess gas, insurance coverage left unanswered
By Kiana Wilburg
Kaieteur News – Does ExxonMobil Corporation regard Guyanese as unintelligent, undeserving of respect and dignity, incapable of knowing when the proverbial wool is being pulled over their eyes?
The spectrum of emotions, one can feel from lending due consideration to such a question was amply pronounced at a project meeting on Thursday evening at the Umana Yana.
The occasion marked the first and only Georgetown scoping meeting for the sixth oil project to be developed in the Stabroek Block by ExxonMobil’s subsidiary, Esso Exploration and Production Guyana Limited (EEPGL).
Key themes that were raised for discussion centred on how Exxon would treat with excess gas for the sixth project, and the type of insurance coverage in place for an oil spill and possible implications for Caribbean territories. Also raised was the question of who is keeping an eagle’s eye on Exxon’s operations to ensure it is in compliance with international best practices.
Fielding these questions was Project Manager for ExxonMobil Guyana, Anthony Jackson.
A representative from the Guyana Environment Initiative was first to take the floor on Friday evening to understand which company or group is ensuring that drill cuttings which will be dumped into the ocean from the project are meeting international requirements, as Exxon claimed.
Jackson said there is a comprehensive system in place. He said drill cuttings are extracted from 2000 meters beneath the sea bed. He said Exxon subscribes to the use of internationally accepted fluids during the extraction and drilling process. Jackson also noted that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) does go out to the oil vessels for inspection purposes too.
Having observed that the question was not answered, Kaieteur News followed up by asking Jackson to say which company is ensuring that Exxon is in compliance with international standards for its discharges.
This newspaper also asked the Exxon official to say who is determining the “international standards” to be used, especially when one considers the fact that the country does not have laws or regulations specific to the treatment of oil sector discharges offshore.
Jackson said there are a number of companies involved in the compliance process but failed to list the names of these firms.
“I have to admit this is not my area of expertise but we have a couple of folks in the room that are in charge of our environmental and regulatory process,” Jackson said.
As to the international standards, he said it is practice in the industry that countries utilize best practices that are accepted across the world and where there isn’t any specification or in-country guidance, Exxon defers to the standards it knows govern various aspects of the industry.
An Exxon official jumped in at this point to note that the EPA also sets the standards to be complied with and it is also responsible for compliance monitoring.
Kaieteur News also asked how often this is done. Joel Gravesande, Head of the EPA’s Oil and Gas Unit was keen to note that compliance is done every day, since it has real time access of what is happening offshore. He said there is real time data on the discharges made and therefore the EPA can know if there is compliance with international standards. He said too that there are daily reports from the FPSOs. He said there are also compliance checks done in person. It is important to know that this is not 24/7 in person compliance, but rather, remote monitoring.
Guyanese environmental activist and Lawyer, Elizabeth Dean-Hughes also took to the floor to understand from Jackson, what percentage of the gas would be considered excess since only a small portion would be used for operational support.
Considering that Jackson was not clear in providing a specific number, Kaieteur News rephrased the question. He was asked to put a number to the excess that would be available from the project and what the options for government are, be it for export purposes or via another gas to energy project.
Jackson was unable to speak definitively on this matter. He said it would be addressed in the Environmental Impact Assessment to be produced by the company’s consultant.
Kaieteur News’ Senior Journalist, Davina Bagot also asked about the insurance policy in place for this project. She also enquired about the implications of citizens ingesting marine species that would have consumed a cocktail of oil and toxic dispersants during an unmitigated oil spill scenario.
Jackson said: “On insurance, I would have to defer that question, I am not an insurance expert of the affiliate, I am aware of our commitment to address any issue that might arise especially if it was related to oil spills…Insurance is not the primary mechanism that we use to do that. If there is a car accident and we needed to act, we don’t wait and say ‘hold on let me call insurance’…that is a tool that is used after the fact to address any claims we might have…”
In the event there is an oil spill and dispersants are used to break the oil into small bits and marine organisms consume it, Jackson said, “it would have to be in significant quantities of oil for this to happen and it is not like a yellow-finned tuna is going around and is interested in eating dispersed oil. It is usually bacteria…The risk is fairly low in my view.”
Another Kaieteur News representative took to the floor, to register in the capacity of a citizen, her disgust with the fact that this is the sixth project Exxon is hosting a scoping meeting on and the subject of insurance from the parent company, ExxonMobil Corporation, is yet to be ironed out.
She said, “It is worrisome, troubling and alarming that the relevant expert is not here to speak definitively on this matter.”
Kaieteur News was also armed with several other questions which it did not get the opportunity to pose due to time constraints placed on the meeting by the organizers.
At the conclusion of the scoping meeting, attendees got a clear understanding of how hungry Exxon is for Guyana’s oil, but not so much about the environmental implications since the relevant representatives on these issues were not present.
Exxon’s sixth project, as previously reported, will target the Whiptail, Pinktail and Tilapia discoveries, estimated to hold over one billion barrels of oil resources. The project is poised for startup in 2027-2028 and will produce between 220,000 and 275,000 barrels of oil per day (bpd).
Scoping meetings for this project continue on Monday at the Mahaicony Technical Institute.
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