Guyana’s green lungs to breathe easy despite Exxon’s offshore emissions

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In a recent Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for ExxonMobil’s sixth Stabroek Block development, known as Whiptail, a comprehensive breakdown of the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions expected from its operations was provided. The findings suggest that, even at peak emissions, the impact on Guyana’s carbon sink will be minimal.

Some environmental campaigners have raised concerns that the emissions from Exxon’s projects will hurt Guyana’s reputation as a proud environmental steward and that they will overshadow the carbon capture services provided by the country’s forests. But the EIA’s numbers indicate that this is not the case. Even with the peak total emissions from a hypothetical seventh Stabroek Block project added to Guyana’s emissions, the study shows the forests will capture way more carbon than is generated by the country’s activities.

The EIA report compiles the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions estimates from various sources, including combustion turbines, flares on the floating production, storage and offloading (FPSO) units, and other fuel combustion units. It projects a peak emission in 2028 of approximately 9,700 kilotonnes per year. This figure is expected to decrease to about 7,200 kilotonnes per year by the end of the Whiptail Development Project’s 20-year life cycle.

When these figures are juxtaposed against Guyana’s carbon sink capacity, the impact is minor. Guyana’s forests, which play a pivotal role in the global fight against climate change, are responsible for removing a massive 154 million tonnes of CO2 equivalents (CO2e) per year from the atmosphere, according to the government’s Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS). 

The total emissions from all sources, including ExxonMobil’s peak year emissions and a third-party power plant, amount to 14.4 million tonnes/year. This represents just 9.4% of Guyana’s carbon sink capacity, as per the 2030 LCDS estimate.

ExxonMobil’s peak year emissions, the most significant single source of emissions in the study, represent only 5.3% of the LCDS 2030 carbon sink estimate. While the projected emissions from ExxonMobil’s activities in Guyana are significant in absolute terms, they are dwarfed by the country’s ability to absorb CO2 through its forests. These findings mirror those of the EIA for Exxon’s fifth project, called Uaru. That study had placed the total annual emissions at 13 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2e)

The findings underscore the importance of preserving and protecting these ecosystems, which serve as a buffer against the adverse effects of climate change. Guyana has made a business out of forest conservation by offering forest carbon credits to be purchased. The first buyer is Hess Corporation. 

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