A mud spill that occurred in the Kanuku Block which is operated by Spanish oil company, Repsol, has exposed just how unprepared the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is for the role of monitoring Guyana’s growing oil sector.
During an interview with Kaieteur News yesterday, EPA Head Dr. Vincent Adams, disclosed that the Repsol mud spill took place in November. The official noted that the company reported that only 84 barrels of mud was released into the ocean due to a valve that was open during its efforts to drill a well.
The official was keen to point out that 84 barrels of mud is what the company said was released but the EPA due to its limited resources is incapable of verifying if this is accurate.
Following the incident, Dr. Adams confirmed that no designated officer is at Repsol’s offshore operations since he does not have the human resources to ensure same.
Dr. Adams said, “We are hoping to improve this situation where we don’t have round the clock, on-site monitoring. We will know based on the budget for 2020, how fast we would be able to get up to speed but as you know, we have elections.
“This would have an effect on allocation for the first part of the year until June I believe. So it would be a late start.”
The EPA Head noted that he is targeting 2021 to have better monitoring conditions and well as trained personnel in place for the oil sector. For the time being, more than 90 percent of the burden rests on his shoulders.
MUD SPILL INCIDENT
The EPA Head said that Repsol contracted Valaris, an offshore drilling contractor headquartered in London, United Kingdom, to drill an exploratory well in the Kanuku Block. Up to July 19, last, Valaris was known as Ensco Rowan.
The following month, it suffered a well blowout offshore Indonesia which led to an oil spill. The spill pumped an estimated 3,000 barrels of oil a day into the sea since it began, according to the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi), the country’s biggest green Non-Governmental Organization.
Dr. Adams said it is obvious that the operation in the Kanuku Block was not conducted in conformity with rigid safety procedures or else a valve would not have been left open which resulted in mud spilling into the ocean.
The official said, “I was on vacation when I learnt of the incident and I was shocked because while I know the mud is not an environmental hazard, the fact that this happened meant that safety procedures were not followed and I knew that I had to get to the bottom of this. I was deeply concerned about what caused this.”
Dr. Adams said he subsequently sent a three-person team, which included one official from the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC), at the end of November to conduct several interviews.
He said that inquiries revealed that there was, as he suspected, no PROPER procedures in place. “If they did, they would have known the position of every valve. This is a matter of adhering to safety procedures. It could have been worse…,” added the EPA Head.
He further noted that all oil companies were summoned to a “serious discussion” about what is expected of them.
Dr. Adams said, “I brought in all the companies and I told them this would not be tolerated. I also had a separate discussion with Repsol where I told them that any further application using Valaris would be placed under serious scrutiny.”
Dr. Adams told Kaieteur News that he is enraged at the fact that all he can do at this point is institute a fine of $1,066,000. “This is not even a slap on the wrist. But that is all I am allowed to do by law. I have since asked my lawyers to do an urgent review of the law,” he said.
Going forward, the EPA head said that the agency would be checking the safety procedures for all the oil companies.
“But again, my only problem is the number of people I need to help me. It is not easy because in the Repsol’s case, I even had to tell my people what questions to ask. So while I intend to do this, it is not something I would be in a position to do steady. I desperately need resources for this job,” the concerned EPA head noted.