University students, members of the public visit Exxon’s ‘open house’ for Payara project

ExxonMobil Guyana Production Manager, Mike Ryan, interacts with members of the public at the company’s open house for the Payara Development Project staged at the Pegasus Hotel in the country’s capital, Georgetown, on September 30, 2019.

Adopting a different format geared towards maximising interaction with the public, ExxonMobil Guyana staged an ‘open house’ on its proposed 220,000 barrels per day Payara project on Monday, September 30 at the Pegasus Hotel in the country’s capital, Georgetown.

The company also used the opportunity to update those gathered on its exploration activities offshore the South American country where it has so far found more than 6 billion barrels of oil equivalent.

Country Manager, Rod Henson, reminded that the company had earlier in the month submitted its Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report for the Payara Development to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in Guyana.

He said over the last two years the company held public engagements to talk about projects such as Liza Phase 1 and 2 but was looking to create an opportunity where more persons can visit these events and ask questions.

“We brought together here tonight – as you can see around the room – multiple different stations. We brought in some ExxonMobil experts as well as environmental advisers…So we want to give you a chance to learn a little bit more about the studies that have been conducted for this Payara project as well as answer questions and discuss the topics that might be of interest to you,” he told those gathered.

When OilNOW visited the event, dozens of persons including students from the University of Guyana (UG), could be seen visiting the different stations and asking questions about the Payara project as well as the company’s operations in Guyana.

“I feel a bit more free to ask certain questions here rather than having to stand up in a room where all the focus was on me, and do the same,” one UG student told OilNOW.

Another student, Althea Williams, said she is currently pursuing a degree in Environmental Studies which focuses on the impact projects have on the environment, “I would like to become an Environmental Chemist. My job would be to determine the impact of various projects on the environment; water quality, air quality, soil quality and the list goes on.”

Commenting on the open house format, Williams said, “I prefer this layout. The reason being is that you get to have that one-on-one attention as oppose to a crowd where you have to compete with persons to ask questions.”

Member of the public and Chemist, Patrick Ketwaru, said he has always had an interest in the developments occurring in the country and their impact. Ketwaru, also a lecturer at the university, said he found the open house format interesting when compared to a traditional setting where comments and questions from each individual are amplified to all those in attendance. He said he can see advantages and disadvantages in the use of both settings but believes that ultimately, more publicity of what is going on in the country’s emerging oil and gas industry would be to the benefit of all Guyanese.

ExxonMobil Guyana Director of Public and Government Affairs, Deedra Moe, told OilNOW the ultimate objective of the exercise is to ensure that people have an understanding of the potential impacts and mitigation measures that are in place for the project.

“When we were looking at different ways to engage, we thought that an open house format would be an ideal way to better communicate with the general public. It allows opportunities for specific questions about certain parts of the Environmental Impact Assessment but then also just general ExxonMobil Guyana questions about what we are doing…” she said.

Feedback from visitors to the event indicate that the format allowed for more transparency in terms of seeing and being able to ask direct questions about the company’s operations in Guyana since several experts were on hand to talk one-on-one about the various aspects of the project.

Scoping meetings have been ongoing for the Payara project utilizing the traditional format and a number of other engagements are planned at other locations in the coming weeks.

The Payara Development Project is expected to come on stream by 2023. The concept involves a 3rd Floating Production Storage and Offloading (FPSO) vessel and related subsea equipment, umbilicals, risers and flowlines. The concept is similar to the Liza Phase 1 and 2 projects which are expected to move into production in 2020 and 2022 respectively.