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Reprisal for illegal diesel clampdown

By RICHARDSON DHALAI Sunday, December 22 2013

click on pic to zoom in
PM Kamla Persad-Bissessar...
PM Kamla Persad-Bissessar...

PRIME MINISTER Kamla Persad-Bissessar said yesterday that oil spills on the Gulf Coast and on land were being treated as acts sabotage of State-owned Petrotrin’s onshore and offshore drilling wells and investigations are underway.

Persad-Bissessar said following talks with Energy Minister Kevin Ramnarine, she had been advised Petrotrin had commenced investigations into possible sabotage of one on-shore well and at four offshore installations.

Addressing the media during a toy drive in her constituency, Persad-Bissessar said:

“I spoke with (Minister) Kevin Ramnarine this morning and he has advised me that Petrotrin is investigating a possible sabotage of leaks. It would not be appropriate to blame anyone, but the nature of it seems to indicate that there may be some sabotage and therefore it needs to be investigated before we can say anything further.”

Ramnarine confirmed that National Security Minister Gary Griffith has been alerted to the possibility of sabotage, which Sunday Newsday learned, could be acts of reprisal over Government’s clamping down on the million dollar illegal diesel trade.

And at a press conference yesterday, Petrotrin’s president Khalid Hassanali confirmed that the company was investigating a possible sabotage of its installations, both onshore and offshore.

Hassanali told Sunday Newsday in one of the oil spillage incident, valves leading to a storage tank operated by Lease Operator - Trinity Oil in the Rancho Quemado field, were discovered open. This resulted in 80 to 100 barrels of oil been spilled yesterday morning. At the press conference, he said that in his 38 years of working in the oil industry, he had never experienced an oil spill the source of which could not be easily determined.

Hassanali said that the first oil spill incident occurred on Tuesday at the port on the Pointe-a-Pierre refinery when a line (No 10 Sea Line) began leaking during oil bunkering from a company’s barge called: “Marabella.”

The second incident occurred on a 16-inch line on the “Riser Platform” in Trinmar off the coast of Point Fortin, in which a gasket failed and oil was spilled into the sea. Oil washed the beaches of Chatham in which residents complained of nausea and breathing problems. Hassanali said on Wednesday the company was notified of oil at Coffee beach and Carrat Shed beach in La Brea, which affected bathers and fishermen.

The fourth incident occurred on Thursday when an oil leak was reported in the East Field area of Trinmar’s operations on Platform 17. Hassanali said the East Field rig and the Riser Platform were unmanned rigs.

Though he did not directly attribute the spills to the illegal bunkering in the million-dollar diesel racket, Hassanali noted “for quite a while now we have been dealing with illegal diesel and measures are being put in place to deal with it.”

“There have been discoveries of illegal diesel within the last several months, together with illegal scrap iron dealers,” he said.

Hassanali noted, “Over the last few days, we have had five incidents. Up to yesterday I was saying four, but last night (Friday night), on our land operations in Rancho Quemado, one of our lease operators, Trinity Oil, they discovered this morning a number of valves that were opened overnight with oil allowed to flow out of the tank ...

“The oil flowed out onto the land and the oil flowed out into a dam with water in it. The one, this morning to me, is one of grave concern. Valves were opened, found open, discovered open, doesn’t normally happen. All of these things don’t happen altogether.”

Hassanali said the clean-up will take some days but that were the crude oil to get into the water courses, consequences to persons and wildlife can be disastrous.

Energy Minister Ramnarine told the Sunday Newsday while he did not wish to “jump” to conclusions, there had not been five incidents of oil spillage over the past three years yet within a matter of days, five incidents had occurred.

“Why, all of a sudden, all of these incidents are taking place? I do not want to say if this is so, until I get more evidence but it is of great concern to me and to this Government,” he said.

Ramnarine said a Task Force has been appointed to investigate the incidents.

Petrotrin has advised residents, boat owners and fisher folk of Point Coco, Granville, Fullerton, Bonasse, Boodram Trace and Unity Beach in Cedros to exercise extreme caution and if possible, avoid venturing in or near the sea.

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