ExxonMobil to complete reinstallation of gas compressor this week

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Flaring on Liza Destiny (Annette Arjoon)

US oil giant ExxonMobil has announced that it will be reinstalling and starting up the troublesome gas compressor onboard the Liza Destiny Floating Production Storage and Offloading (FPSO) vessel this week, bringing the company one step closer to restoring flaring to pilot levels.

This was communicated in a press statement from Esso Exploration and Production Guyana Limited’s (EEPGL) Public Affairs Advisor, Janelle Persaud. According to Persaud, teams of experts are making final preparations for the start-up of the flash gas compressor this week.

“With safety top of mind, the team offshore has been carefully and methodically reassembling the various components of the gas compression system, and are now running key instrumentation tests for a successful start-up,” the statement said.

“Throughout this period, ExxonMobil Guyana has sought to strike a balance between safely maintaining production while minimizing flaring. We have kept relevant Government agencies and other stakeholders informed about the progress of the repairs and reinstallation.”

The statement went on to describe the malfunction of the company’s equipment as “disappointing” and noted that notwithstanding the challenges to do with COVID-19, they will be applying the lessons learnt to ongoing and future projects.

In the latter part of January 2021, EEPGL had announced that it was experiencing technical problems with the seal on Liza Destiny’s flash gas compressor. The problem resulted in Exxon having to reduce its production and also conduct routine flaring.

Last month, Exxon had announced that an “axial vibration” was to blame for the failure of its compressor, which had to be shipped to the German workshop of MAN Energy Solutions. It was subsequently revealed that Exxon had been flaring 16 million cubic feet of gas per day.

It is an increase from the volume of flaring the company conducted last year which reportedly ranged between 12 and 15 million cubic feet. It is a situation that Exxon executives have said no one is happy with, even as they work along with the regulatory agencies. Additionally, it was announced that Exxon is currently producing around 120,000 barrels of oil per day (bpd). Before the flaring, production was at 130,000 bpd.

While some have called for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to act, their hands are, in fact, tied. At a press conference, Vice President Bharrat Jagdeo had pointed out that Exxon is limited to flaring 14 billion cubic feet of gas.

According to him, this is per the approved Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), which means that according to calculations, Exxon wouldn’t reach that flaring ceiling at current levels until the end of April 2021. Nevertheless, he had described the company’s current routine flaring as unacceptable.

However, Jagdeo had noted that by June of 2022, when the Liza 1 permit expires and has to be renewed, Exxon will have to submit to the inclusion of fines in the Liza 1 permit that is similar to what is obtained in the Payara permit.

Back in December of last year, on the oil company’s first year anniversary since commencing production in 2019, the company’s Country Manager, Alastair Routledge, had expressed disappointment at the equipment issues they experienced and had also assured that routine flaring would not be employed.