Petroleum operators urged to protect environment

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Over 70 representatives from government agencies and operators and contractors in the oil and gas industry on Monday began a two-day conference on operational and environmental safeguards.

The issues being dealt with surround possible oil spills and other impacts from the active petroleum sector.

Guyana is trying to exploit its oil and gas resources while protecting its environment and pushing for more clean, renewable energy sources.

Executive Director of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Dr Vincent Adams told those in attendance that the body is mandated by legislation to ensure that accidents are prevented. But he admitted that the agency is not equipped to monitor the sector 24/7.

Dr Adams urged the operators to put the requisite systems in place to ensure safety, pointing out that the cost to clean up an oil spill will be more than the revenue generated from the sector.

“A lot of times we talk about production – the only thing you read about is the number of barrels and the money we’re going be getting.

“All it takes is that one incident and all of that will come to [zero]; as a matter of fact, it will be coming in the negative because then we going to have to find the money for a major clean up and is not going to be good news for this country nor the operators.”

“Safety is what you do when no one is looking,” he added, noting that the EPA and other agencies should not be barred from visiting any facility operating in Guyana. He said this should also include unplanned visits.

Participants at the Enhancing Offshore E&P Regional Capacity; Operational and Environmental Safeguards Conference
(DPI photo)

Dr. Adams said the EPA is working on formulating standards for the petroleum sector. In the meantime, it has been vetting and adopting international standards.

The EPA has established an oil and gas unit to deal with issues which may arise in the sector. This was done with collaboration with the Department of Energy.

Director of the Department of Energy, Dr. Mark Bynoe, noted that if not managed properly, the industry has the potential to place significant pressures on Guyana’s marine and coastal environments and inhabitants that depend on these for their livelihoods.

A UN report estimates that global corporate environmental damage costs $2.2 trillion annually, with an estimated global cost of $28 trillion by 2050, he noted.

This includes anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions as well as local air and water pollution.

“Combating environmental issues through foreign and domestic legislation has been met with limited success in many jurisdictions but tend to be most successful where environmental risks are explicitly embedded in daily operations.

“Approaching decisions regarding environmental risks in the same fashion as any other risk incurred by the company serves multiple purposes,” he told those in attendance.

Dr. Bynoe said the conference is timely.

He said the combination of environmental risk management frameworks may be sufficient to protect the delicate ecosystems of our coastal and marine environments locally, and within the Region.

Some of the participants of the conference are TullowOil, Mid Atlantic, ExxonMobil, Berbice Onshore, Bristow Group, Eco Atlantic, Edison Chouest offshore, Guysons Oil and Gas, Harvey Gulf Marine, the Ministry of Natural Resources, Civil Defence Commission, Maritime Administration, and the University of Guyana among others.

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