Public grills Exxon, Govt on oil spill preparedness

DPI, GUYANA, Sunday, December 10, 2017

ExxonMobil is prepared to bring in “mind-boggling resources” even as it develops the capacity of locals to be first responders in the event of an oil spill.

Raphael Trotman, Minister of Natural Resources.

The question of the oil giant’s preparedness to manage a potential spill, in its offshore operation, was top priority for the general public at a lecture to address the issues of oil spill response readiness. The talk was facilitated by the Ministry of Natural Resources, in collaboration with Exxon.

Exxon’s Oil Response Advisor, Thomas Tomblin, said there is no place more prepared than Guyana. “I want you to know that you have the latest available technology for response to a spill,” he said.

Tomblin explained that all vessels working for the company offshore are equipped with a dispersant application device onboard, which he designed. Additionally, each drillship and vessels are required to Ship Oil Pollution Emergency Plan (SOPEP), international guidelines set out under the International Maritime Organisation (Marpol) to prevent pollution at sea.

Exxon’s response plan is similar to many of its worldwide operations. Locals will implement the tactical response while the company will provide the strategic response, in the form of an emergency support group and additional corporate resources.

Currently, industry stakeholders are being trained in Exxon’s University of Spill Management course to develop their capabilities as first responders. “We teach them what to do, how to it and how to respond”, Tomblin explained.

Thomas Tomblin, ExxonMobil’s Oil Spill Response Advisor.

In addition, Tomblin explained that the company undergoes “robust” internal audits using the Operations Integrity Management System (OIMS) to address risks inherent in the business.

Exxon is also working with the Guyana Civil Defense Commission (CDC), who is leading the development of the country’s National Oil Spill Response strategy. Already, a draft exists Minister of Natural Resources Raphael Trotman explained. He added that the strategy is still in the development phase.

Exxon’s oil response plan follows the Integrated Management System, a worldwide response strategy in the industry to prepare for incidents like oil spills. President of the Response Group, a consultancy emergency response firm in the industry, Roy Barrett explained the features and benefits of the system during the presentation.

A section of those who attended the lecture.

Other pressing questions included who evaluates and verifies the cleanliness of an oil spill response. On the side of the government, Minister Trotman noted that the Guyana Geology and Mines (GGMC) has officers stationed on vessels offshore with the capacity to increase the agencies that will be doing verification as production gets underway in 2020.

Additionally, a percentage of oil revenues will go to the Environmental Trust Fund. “That is intended to take care of not only potential risk and accidents, but to enhance other aspects of the protection of our environment and biodiversity,” Minister Trotman explained.

As for Exxon, Tomblin noted that the company utilises third parties to evaluate their work. “When we do this we take…independent third party…and they go look at each of the sites and everybody determines how clean is clean,” he said.

Tomblin gave the company’s commitment to “doing things the right way” in the development and execution of its oil response plans.


By: Tiffny Rhodius


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