ExxonMobil Guyana, other agencies continue oil spill response readiness

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As part of its ongoing efforts to ensure enhanced capacity to respond to an unlikely event of an oil spill, ExxonMobil Guyana has staged another training exercise for employees and relevant stakeholder agencies.

The response drill was the culmination of a three-day training course on the Incident Command System, a standardized on-scene all-risk, incident management structure. ExxonMobil Guyana employees and contractors were joined by representatives from the Civil Defence Commission (CDC), Maritime Administration (MARAD), GDF Coast Guard, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Energy in an all-day simulation exercise on February 21.

This exercise provided participants with the opportunity to perform and execute current response management concepts and procedures detailed in ExxonMobil Guyana’s Oil Spill Response Plan.

Captain Salim October, CDC operations and training officer, believes that participation in such exercises tests the readiness of the CDC and related agencies to respond to an oil spill, should this become necessary. “It is critical that we engage in these preparatory exercises that help to enhance our capabilities and skills to execute the National Oil Spill Contingency Plan. We have to anticipate issues and problems and work them out in a framework of support and learning. Prior to this exercise, we’ve been involved in others led by a number of operators including ExxonMobil. We’ve benefitted from industry specific training which includes deployment of oil spill equipment, Incident Command Systems and Risk Communication among a number of other topics,” Captain October said. He added that participation in these types of exercises helps the CDC, which is the national coordinating body in the event of an emergency, understand the capacity of the various governmental agencies in order to identify existing gaps.

ExxonMobil Guyana is committed to conducting its operations in a safe and environmentally responsible manner and preventing a spill is a top priority. As such, the company has ensured that all necessary preventative measures are in place. For ExxonMobil Guyana, it is important to have an emergency response plan ready well before a well is drilled. This exercise and previous ones such as the regional response exercise in August of 2019, ensure that while we prevent and prepare, employees and relevant agencies are able to practice.

Mitigating Risks

Meanwhile, as part of the EIA process for various projects, ExxonMobil Guyana had undertaken studies to understand Guyana’s Physical, Biological, and Socioeconomic Resources. These baseline studies and others allow us to identify potential risks and ensure the appropriate mitigations are in place. These include a Turtle tagging and telemetry programme, a fish study through which several new species were discovered, nine marine bird surveys and an extensive Ecosystem Services Study along Guyana’s coastline from the Waini (Region 1) to the Corentyne (Region 6) involving more than 700 community leaders.

These studies were conducted by Guyanese and international experts who participated in an ‘open house’ at the Pegasus Hotel in September 2019. They shared the findings of the studies and were available to answer all related questions and concerns from participants who were mostly students from the University of Guyana. The findings of the various studies have been submitted to the EPA.