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Oil-sand mining coming to TT?



By Sean Douglas

Petroleumworld 10 05 2018

THE Government's plans to extract oil from tar sands at La Brea has raised the ire of local environmentalist Gary Aboud and former energy minister Carolyn Seepersad-Bachan. On Wednesday Newsday published an advertisement titled: “Request for proposal: Development and operations of an oil sand quarry at Parrylands, La Brea.”

The Palo Seco Agricultural Enterprises Company said it holds a mining licence from the Ministry of Energy to mine tar sands at Parrylands on 69 acres of land. It invited bids to operate on ten acres for a year, constituting phase one.

However, controversy has dogged tar-sand mining, with the American Geosciences Institute noting its potential but also its environmental challenges, saying, “Oil production from tar sands uses large amounts of land (for open-pit mining), water, and energy, when compared to other oil resources. Open-pit mining also produces a lot of waste.”

Seepersad-Bachan told Newsday she did not know what research the Environmental Management Authority (EMA) had done on tar sands and whether it had laid down proper specifications by which to assess any such proposals.

“There are serious environmental issues. What are the safeguards in place?” While noting recent improvements globally in tar-sand mining, she noted the ruin such mining usually causes, and asked if such sites can be restored. “I'm not sure if we are ready for this.”

Seepersad-Bachan said a cost-benefit analysis must be done.

“Will the revenues you get be enough to fix the environment?” she asked. “Does it even make economic sense? The cost of exploration is high. “You'll probably get a lot of expressions of interest, especially by foreign investors, because they can't get through elsewhere, where the regulations are so strict.”

Aboud spoke with Newsday at an energy policy conference at the University of the West Indies, St Augustine.

“Who are the losers in the tar-sands extraction process? What are the risks, what are the gains for TT and can the risks be effectively mitigated?”

He said these are questions for the EMA, which he hoped would stay independent of the Executive.

“The great risk of tar-sands is contamination of ground-water, which is what we drink. All the environmental and human health signals suggest tar sands is a last resort.

“The question is, are we as a nation prepared to engage in such high-risk activity, when we can't even put out a simple house fire? Has there been a feasibility study, or cost-benefit analysis?”

Aboud alleged governmental secrecy, leaving everyone operating in a vacuum, with the public ending up as guinea pigs.

Newsday was yesterday unable to contact Energy Minister Franklin Khan for comment.


Story by Sean Douglas from Trinidad & Tobago Newsday 10 05 2018

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