…maintains low probability of oil spill reaching coastLiza Phase 2By Jarryl BryanThe results from the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) into the Liza Phase 2 development project has almost cleared ExxonMobil’s subsidiary from the presumption that its operations will cause damage to Guyana’s wildlife and the environment – that is, pending an independent assessment.The report’s findings are that damage will be “negligible to minor” when it comes to various categories. That is, save for damage to marine mammals, which the report does find will be moderate.According to the report, which was commissioned by Esso Exploration and Production Guyana Limited (EEPGL), observations before and after the issuance of the Environmental permit show that large members of the cetacean family (particularly whales) rarely appear South of the Stabroek Block.The report states, “marine mammals have the potential to be impacted by two types of sound from planned project activities…Continuous sound from vessels and machinery operating in the (Project Development Area (PDA)) and comparatively louder, shorter-duration impulse sound from the Vertical Seismic Profiling (VSP) and pile driving.”“Both the continuous sound and impulse sound sources would be loud enough to cause injury in the immediate vicinity of the source,” the report acknowledges, but adds that this would have no effect within approximately 10 metres of the vessels, 75 metres from the VSP, and approximately 1400 metres from the driven piles. The piles are driven at depths of more than 4920 feet.Even with those risks, however, the report pointed out the premise that marine mammals actively avoid these sounds because of the physical discomfort. It adds that mid frequency hearing mammals generally stay 700 metres away. The low frequency mammals, it says, avoid that portion of water by 1400 metres.“Both categories of cetaceans would be expected to avoid these areas for the duration of the pile-driving activity. Low frequency cetaceans (LFC) species, including many of the larger baleen whales and dolphins, and some mid frequency cetaceans (MFC) species, including toothed whales, will naturally remain outside of the area of potential effect because it will be deeper than their deepest recorded dive depths,” the report states.According to the report, species like Sperm Whales have been known to dive approximately 4000 feet in tropical and subtropical waters. But the report states that even if they met depths that would expose them to injury, they physiologically could not remain there for sufficient periods.Marine turtlesThe report states that marine turtles could be impacted by planned project activities, but that the impact is negligible to minor. It states that turtles, which are reptilian, are not as sensitive to underwater sound as mammals.“Marine turtles have been detected at a much lower rate than marine mammals prior to and since the Project was permitted, which suggests that the density of marine turtles offshore is comparatively low. Preliminary tracking data from a marine turtle telemetry study indicate that individual turtles may nest multiple times a season at Shell Beach.”The report adds that “during the period between nesting events, they generally remain close to the nesting beaches, which would reduce the probability of their encountering Project vessel traffic moving within the PDA or between the PDA and shore base in Guyana.”Oil spillsThe assessment also takes into account unplanned events, such as hydrocarbon spill, discharge of untreated wastewater from the FPSO, vessel strike of a marine mammal, marine turtle, or seabird; vessel collision; and onshore vehicular accident.“An unplanned event is defined as an event that is not planned to occur as part of the project, but that could potentially occur. Since these events are not planned, they are evaluated using methods different from those used for planned events, specifically taking into consideration the likelihood that an unplanned event will occur.”“EEPGL has identified 14 spill scenarios, including spills of different types of hydrocarbons (like) crude oil, marine diesel, fuel oil, lubricating oil, with several being applicable for spills at the shore base and on vessels in the Demerara River estuary (like) from a supply vessel) or in the Atlantic Ocean – eg, from a well, drillship, supply vessel, tanker, FPSO. The largest of these scenarios considers a loss of well control incident at the seafloor, releasing 20,000 barrels of oil per day for 30 days.”But the report noted previous findings that there is a low probability of an oil spill reaching the shoreline, in addition to the five to 15 days timeline for oil the reach the shore. It also noted its oil spill contingency plans. These plans, the company said, include its proper preparation of wells, inspected well control equipment, an Oil Spill Response Plan that sets out the response chain to an oil spill.“The OSRP clearly delineates the responsibilities of each entity that would take part in a response and describes how EEPGL would mobilise both its own resources and those of its oil spill response contractors, as well as notifying the Government of Guyana with respect to mobilising its resources,” the report states.Last month, Government had announced that an international firm, Ramboll US Corporation, will be contracted at a cost of $40 million to review the EIA. That sum will be footed by EEPGL, seeking environmental authorisation for the second phase of its Lisa project.It is understood that the Liza Phase 1 development project will produce about half the oil in the Liza field, Stabroek block. The Liza Phase 2 development project will produce the other half.