Mechanisms in place to monitor, protect environment during oil, gas production – AG Nandlall

Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Mohabir Anil Nandlall, SC, has assured that the government has put in place a host of mechanisms to protect the country’s environment while managing the oil and gas sector.

The minister was at the time speaking with the Department of Public Information (DPI) during an interview on Saturday.

AG Nandlall lamented the terms of the 2016 agreement signed by the previous government, stressing that while these terms are not ideal, the government is determined to make the best of it. 

“This contract has restricted us within its four corners. The licences that have to be issued under these contracts are also so constricted because the terms of the licences have to be consistent with the terms of the contract,” the minister said.

Even so, the AG said they have managed to tailor the terms of each licence issued under its tenure to reflect its commitments to transparency, accountability, and environmental protection.

He contrasted the licences issued for the Liza Unity and Liza Destiny projects, which were granted under the APNU+AFC Coalition Government, with the licences granted for the Payara, Uaru, Yellowtail, and Whiptail projects, under the PPP/C Government.

“When you look at the Payara licence and every other licence after that, and you compare them with the Liza licences that they granted, you are looking at two radically different documents. As constricted and confined as we are, we still managed to eke out variables and variations, to include more conditions,” AG Nandlall explained.

Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Anil Nandlall, SC

To hold the contractor accountable for maintaining an environmentally acceptable state, the government has put in place a fine of US$30 per tonne of carbon dioxide equivalent for flaring on the Floating, Production, Storage, and Offloading (FPSO) vessels.

Flaring is the controlled burning of excess natural gas, preventing dangerous buildups that could lead to explosions.

This process occurs during oil production, where natural gas is often extracted alongside crude oil.

However, the gas needs to be separated and treated before it can be used as a fuel source. If there’s no infrastructure for processing or transporting the gas, or if it’s not commercially viable to do so, flaring becomes the alternative.

Notably, robust online data sharing for improved monitoring has also been developed.  

“We insisted that they put a cable running from the operations, over 100 miles out, and there is a direct feed to the Environmental Protection Agency and the Ministry of Natural Resources, where we are observing real-time what is going on, what is being extracted,” the legal affairs minister explained.

Furthermore, under the licences issued by this government, the company has been required to develop an in-house capping stack to protect against a potential oil spill.

A capping stack acts as the last line of defence, a vital piece of equipment that can seal off a well and stop oil flow in case of system failure.“We have a mechanism also that allows us to monitor the oil in the reservoir, the amount that is discovered…These are all capabilities that we ensured were put in place. These weren’t there before,” the AG emphasised.

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