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Exxon continues to pollute Guyana’s air with toxic chemicals

Kaieteur News

Exxon Mobil Liza Destiny

- ExxonMobil flaring at its Liza Destiny FPSO.
- 2.9 billion standard cubic feet of gas flared for 2021

By  Kaieteur News

Petroleumworld 09 27 2021

ExxonMobil, an oil and gas giant that touts the effective management of its wastes, has thus far flared some 2.9 billion standard cubic feet of natural gas for 2021. Kaieteur News was reliably informed of this jaw-dropping figured by the Executive Director of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Kemraj Parsram.

One would recall that these significantly high levels of flaring, which is still ongoing at the Liza Destiny operations offshore in Guyana’s lucrative Stabroek Block, is a consequence of a defected gas compressor. Notably, this gas compressor and/ or its parts have been defective since 2019, resulting in Exxon flaring above pilot levels to an estimated 20 months.

In December 2020, Kaieteur News had reported that Exxon had flared 12.9 billion cubic feet of gas which is equivalent to the removal of 1.6 million acres of forest. In simpler terms, this means that Exxon flared toxic natural gas that could have been offset by a forest the size of Region Two (Pomeroon-Supenaam).

It was following criticisms and backlash from civil society as well as the international community, the PPP/C Government moved to amend Exxon’s environmental permit which saw the U.S oil giant paying UD$30 per tonne of carbon dioxide emitted. Last month, the Government increased that fee to US$45 per tonne.

The EPA Director had disclosed on Kaieteur Radio’s Guyana’s Oil and You earlier this month that the EPA has already received GY$400 million in penalties from Exxon. He was keen to note that the fine was increased as of July since ExxonMobil is still flaring, though at significantly reduced levels, as he noted that the oil company was flaring 15 million standard cubic feet of gas per day, but this is now down to six million standard cubic feet of gas per day.

Meanwhile, Exxon’s flash gas compression system was started up on June 19, last, for the first testing phase and was shut down on June 28, last, to remove temporary probes and instrumentation. During the first testing phase, the oil company had said it was able to reduce the flare to pilot levels.

ExxonMobil was keen to note, that initial test results indicate improvements in pulsation dampening performance while adding, that the second phase of testing will begin on July 4. Upon successful completion, Exxon said it expects the system to continue into normal operation.

To ensure it remains in compliance with its environmental permit, Exxon said it applied to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for approval to flare above the pilot level for this extended period of equipment testing.

As previously communicated, a newly redesigned flash gas compressor is being manufactured and is expected to arrive in the country during the fourth quarter of this year. It is scheduled for set up in November.

Dangers of flaring

Extensive research conducted by Kaieteur News shows that gas flaring contributes to climate change, which has serious implications for human security and wellbeing globally. The Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Ibadan, Ibadan, Nigeria, outlined in one of its studies, that gas flaring is a major source of greenhouse gases, which accelerates global warming.

It was noted that flaring releases Carbon Dioxide and Methane, the two major greenhouse gases. Of these two, Methane is more harmful than Carbon Dioxide. It is also more prevalent in flares that burn at lower efficiency.

Of the greenhouse gases researched so far, Kaieteur News understands that the global warming potential of a kilogramme of Methane is estimated to be 21 times that of a kilogramme of Carbon Dioxide when the effects are considered.

The University of Ibadan study also noted, that flaring contributes to local and regional environmental problems, such as acid rain with attendant impact on agriculture, forests and other physical infrastructure. The acid rain results in environmental degradation, which includes soil and water contamination and roof erosion.

Furthermore, there have been over 250 identified toxins released from flaring including carcinogens such as benzopyrene, benzene, carbon disulphide (CS2), carbonyl sulphide (COS) and toluene; metals such as mercury, arsenic and chromium; sour gas with Hydrogen Sulfide (H2S) and Sulfur Dioxide (SO2); Nitrogen oxides (NOx); Carbon dioxide (CO2); and methane (CH4) which contributes to the greenhouse gases.

Flaring is also hazardous to human health. Nigerian scientists, Omosivie Maduka and Charles Tobin-West, in a joint paper lodged with the US National Centre for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), had explained that flaring in the Niger Delta area of Nigeria has polluted the air and water, and precipitated the formation of acid rain. All of this, they said, has caused negative outcomes in the communities there, including chronic and recurrent respiratory diseases, abnormalities in the blood, increased susceptibility to certain diseases of the blood and others.




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