Oil spill from Exxon reaching offshore possible but unlikely- EPA study

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An environmental study undertaken by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has found that the likelihood of an oil spill offshore Guyana as part of the ExxonMobil exploration is considered unlikely to occur because of the extensive preventative measures employed.

The Liza-1  drill ship

It has nevertheless found that an oil spill is considered possible, and Esso Exploration and Production Guyana Limited (EEPGL) has conducted oil spill modeLling to evaluate the range of likely spill trajectories and rates of travel.

The location of the Project at 190 km (120 miles) offshore, prevailing northwest currents, the light nature of the Liza field crude oil, and the region’s warm waters would all help minimise the severity of a spill.

“Accounting for these factors, the modelling indicates only a 5-to-10 per cent probability of any oil reaching the Guyana coast without taking into consideration the effectiveness of any oil spill response, and in the unlikely event that a spill were even to occur,” the study found.
EEPGL (45%), Hess Guyana Exploration Limited (30%) and CNOOC Nexen Petroleum Guyana Limited (25%) are parties to a petroleum agreement with the Government of Guyana. Under this agreement, and in light of the Liza field discovery, EEPGL has applied for, and has received, a petroleum production licence and has submitted a project development plan to the Minister responsible for Petroleum.

A key permit required for EEPGL to develop the Liza field is the Environmental Authorisation from the Guyana Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), in accordance with the Guyana Environmental Protection Act of 1996 (EP Act Cap. 20:05).

As part of its regulatory role, the EPA, considering recommendations from the Environmental Advisory Board (EAB) and the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC), is responsible for deciding whether, and under what conditions, to grant EEPGL’s application for Environmental Authorisation (Application), which was filed with the EPA on July 5, 2016.

Based on an initial assessment of the project, the EPA determined that an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) was required.

EEPGL has proposed to drill approximately 17 subsea development wells and use a floating production, storage and offloading (FPSO) vessel to process, store, and offload the recovered oil.

EAST GRAND TERRE ISLAND – JUNE 07: A dead sea turtle lies next to a rolling tide of crude oil, released following the sinking of the BP Deepwater Horizon drilling rig, along the shore of East Grand Terre Island on June 7, 2010. (Photo by Benjamin Lowy/Edit by Getty Images)

The FPSO will be connected to the wells via separate production (oil, gas, and produced water), gas injection, and water injection flowlines and risers, and associated subsea equipment.

The project, according to the environmental study, will also involve shore-based facilities and marine/aviation services to support development drilling, FPSO and subsea equipment installation, production operations, and ultimately decommissioning.

“EEPGL will utilise proven and industry accepted standards, and has incorporated many embedded controls into the overall project design to minimise environmental and socioeconomic impacts…It could take up to four years to drill the wells, with drilling planned to begin as early as 2018.”

The initial production is expected to begin by mid-2020, with operations continuing for at least 20 years.

The planned activities of the project, according to the environmental study, are predicted to have minor impacts on physical resources, no impacts on coastal biological resources, minor impacts on marine biological resources, and largely positive impacts on socioeconomics.

These predictions are based on the fact that the bulk of the project activity will occur approximately 190 km (120 miles) offshore, and the project will capture and re-inject produced natural gas, which is not used as fuel on the FPSO, back into the Liza reservoir; treat required wastewater streams prior to discharge to the sea; have a very small physical footprint, and use marine mammal observers (MMO) during selected activities to minimise the potential impacts to marine mammals due to auditory injury and ships strikes.

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