New capping stack in Guyana to provide ‘highest standard’ of oil spill response

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A capping stack, a large piece of equipment used in oil spill response, is now in Guyana and forms part of ExxonMobil’s arsenal to deal with any possible spill offshore.

The new equipment is at the Guyana Shore Base Inc., at Houston. There are other response equipment there, including containment booms.

“We certainly expect to never use this equipment in real life but we will continue to look after it (and) preserve it,” President of ExxonMobil Guyana Limited, Alistair Routledge said at the Shore Base on Tuesday.

He added that it is ready for quick deployment in the “unlikely event” a spill occurs.

The new capping stack in Guyana (Photo: News Room/ July 9, 2024)

Routledge emphasised that the procurement of this equipment- which is being used on a subscription basis- is part of the “state-of-the-art” resources in Guyana to respond to any spill that may occur. He also noted that the company has the financial resources to engage in any cleanup activities.

The capping stack is the first equipment of its kind in Guyana and one of 13 globally.

Routledge noted that this fact alone demonstrates how the company is “bringing the highest standards to Guyana.”

As per the environmental permit granted to ExxonMobil to move ahead with its fourth project offshore, Yellowtail, ExxonMobil Guyana Limited, was required to procure a capping stack to be maintained, tested and stored in Guyana.

But what is a capping stack? How does it work?

This is a large piece of equipment that can be placed over an oil wellhead should there be an oil spill. It functions as a plug or ‘cap’ that stops the oil from leaking until the well can be properly sealed.

Before the huge capping stack is placed on a wellhead where the spill is occurring from, debris from the area is removed. Sensors on that capping stack monitor pressure and temperature in the area.

Though it is perhaps the most sophisticated piece of equipment in Guyana to deal with spills, Routledge noted that there are other pieces of equipment that can help with the response in the event of a spill.

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