With an oil and gas industry in Trinidad and Tobago that is well over 100 years old, an environmental specialist from the twin island republic believes that the absence of a major catastrophic disaster over the years is commendable, although small oil spills continue to occur regularly.
Speaking to several hundred participants at Guyana’s first Oil and Gas Conference in March, Coastal Dynamics Ltd Executive, Frank Teelucksingh, said while small accidents have occurred, Trinidad and Tobago has never had a major disaster that resulted in large numbers of casualties. Most of the incidents involving oil spills, he said, are as a result of equipment wear and tear.
Coastal Dynamics is one of the largest environmental consulting firms operating in Trinidad and Tobago.
“Our issues are more with environmental incidents. The oil and gas industry in Trinidad is well over a hundred years so there is a lot of infrastructure that has been there for quite a while. So there are some upset conditions caused by continuous use of equipment that may need to be upgraded and so on. So you get small spills happening very regularly and that is our main issue in terms of upset conditions,” Mr. Teelucksingh said.
One such incident occurred on April 23 at the Petrotrin Pointe-a-Pierre refinery where a breached tank resulted in 300 barrels of bunker fuel pouring into the Gulf of Paria. Days later, it was reported that oil had spread to the Venezuelan maritime boundary.
As US oil major ExxonMobil gears up to begin oil production in Guyana, environmental concerns are also engaging the attention of authorities in that country. Guyana’s natural resources minister, Raphael Trotman, outlined steps in an Oil Spill Readiness – National Plan of Action document, to a Parliamentary Sectoral Committee on April 19, in the country’s capital, Georgetown.
A raft of legislation is also being crafted and amended to address the regulatory and institutional framework in which the oil and gas sector will operate.
ExxonMobil and its partners have to date discovered an estimated 2 billion barrels of recoverable oil 120 miles offshore Guyana in an area known as the Stabroek Block. Plans are underway for drilling to begin in 2018 with first oil due mid-2020.