EPA ‘gearing up’ oil and gas unit

Executive Director of the EPA, Dr. Vincent Adams

– to begin hiring staff soon

THE Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has the responsibility to take the necessary measures to manage, conserve, protect and improve the environment, and that includes offshore Guyana.

More interest is expected to be placed on the marine environment when Guyana’s oil and gas sector kicks-off next year. With American oil giant, ExxonMobil set to produce approximately 120,000 barrels of oil per day and gradually increase that amount to 750,000 per day by 2025, the EPA has to ensure that it monitors the operations to guard against pollution and other environmental impacts.

The EPA, during its preparation, has to also consider the fact that Tullow Guyana B.V – a subsidiary of UK-based oil company Tullow Oil plc. has found oil offshore Guyana at its Jethro-1 well in the Orinduik Block. That find is projected to be more than 100 million barrels of recoverable resources.

“We are aware of what is going on and we are gearing up the oil and gas unit…we are going to start looking at how we staff it, but it is going to be a challenge to get the unit in place before first oil,” said Executive Director of the EPA, Dr. Vincent Adams, during a recent interview with the Guyana Chronicle.

Though the task ahead is challenging, Dr. Adams said the agency is going to move aggressively towards the establishment of the unit. He believes the hardest part of setting up the unit will be finding staff locally. The agency’s plan, however, is to recruit persons from wherever they can.

According to the executive director, the proposal right now is to have 36 people for the oil and gas unit. Those 36 persons will include highly skilled petroleum engineers, petroleum managers and other technical staff.

“As for local staff, we are partnering with developers, Exxon and the rest of them, who have been helpful in providing training, sponsoring training, taking employees out on the vessel or in the facilities for them to get first-hand practical training,” said Dr. Adams.
The EPA has also received assistance from the World Bank, which has helped in providing experts to develop the oil and gas unit.

Developing the unit is only one part of the EPA’s mandate, said Dr. Adams, adding that the EPA’s role in the management of the oil and gas sector is important.

The role starts from the time a company signals interest in Guyana, since that company would have to apply for a permit before they can operate. Included in the permit are conditions which the company has to follow.

The EPA, back in November last year, approved the final Environmental Impact Assessment Report for ExxonMobil affiliate, Esso Exploration and Production Guyana Limited’s (EEPGL) Liza Phase Two Development Project. The EIA covered development of production facilities in the Stabroek Licence Area located approximately 183 kilometers (114 miles) northeast of the coastline of Georgetown.

The EPA said its decision was based on the agency being satisfied that the EIA conforms to the relevant local and international guidelines and policies to ensure sound environmental management for this specific project. The agency also considered and found the proposed measures in the EIA and Environmental Management Plan reasonable to protect human health and environment.

“Our job is to go out there and monitor and ensure they are complying…we can take legal action if they do not comply with the law…we take legal action in terms of shutting down operations,” said Dr. Adam.

He said shutting down operations is, however, something which he is not expecting since the oil and gas companies are very responsible and reputable. “They do not want us to shut down their operations…they are reputable companies, who I believe are going to follow the law…based on their track record they are not going to spoil their brand,” said the executive director.

Since the oil companies came to Guyana they have been negotiating in good faith with the EPA, he said, adding that he is not concerned that those companies will try to violate the law.

Despite him not being too concerned that the companies will try to violate the laws, Dr. Adams said the EPA will be doing everything in its power to protect the environment.
The EPA’s power was, however, limited in the past, especially because of its budget but, with the intent of augmenting operations, Dr. Adams said the agency will be submitting a proposal for a higher budget.

The EPA was legally established by the Environmental Protection Act in 1996. The agency was tasked with the mandate of taking actions to prevent and control pollution; assess the impact of economic development on the environment; and ensure the sustainable use of Guyana’s natural resources.