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11 oil spills in 10 days

By SEAN DOUGLAS Tuesday, December 31 2013

click on pic to zoom in
Pump it out: La Brea resident James Charles uses a huge pump to extract oil from a yard at Coffee Beach, La Brea yesterday. ...
Pump it out: La Brea resident James Charles uses a huge pump to extract oil from a yard at Coffee Beach, La Brea yesterday. ...

LAST Sunday night, Petrotrin found yet another oil leak which it said it now has under control, chairman Lindsay Gillette disclosed yesterday even as he wryly remarked that 11 oil leaks within ten days is a lot of oil leaks and is “unusual, alarming and unprecedented”.

The latest leak was found at the Trinity Platform in the Brighton Marine Field, said Gillette, assuring it is now “under control”.

“There was actually one more leak discovered on Sunday at 6 pm on the Trinity Platform in the Brighton Marine Field,” said Gillette.

Gillette and Petrotrin president Khalid Hassanali yesterday held a news briefing at Petrotrin’s office at Queen’s Park West, Port-of-Spain, where they assured that the firm has done everything possible to clean up the spill including helping affected residents and the environment, utilising the help of both local persons from the community and foreign experts from the US and UK.

“The whole situation is absolutely under control, and we’ll have a full clean-up within two weeks,” said Gillette. British and American consultants would stay for as long as needed, he added.

Hassanali said four oil-spills were with regard to a joint venture between Petrotrin and Trinity Exploration and Production, one involved a joint-venture of Petrotrin and Neal and Massy Energy Resources Limited, while the rest were sole Petrotrin operations. Samples of contaminant oil have been sent abroad for their source to be identified, but the holiday season has delayed the lab results, he said.

He said the cost so far of the clean-up is $5 million, and within two weeks would be at 99 percent completion of all “heavy” cleaning up, to be followed up by some lighter cleaning-up.

In giving their list of leak sites, Petrotrin denied any liability by any defective equipment. Gillette could think of no reason why anyone would want to sabotage Petrotrin, although Hassanali said incidents of theft had occurred in the past over Petrotrin’s vast marine acreage which is quite hard to secure. One such theft of pipeline has resulted in the leakage of oil which had cost Petrotrin $1 million to clean up, said Hassanali.

He named at least two sites where the oil-leaks had been caused by apparently unusual turns-of-events, including Rancho Quemado where two plugs were missing each of which could only be loosened by a four-inch wrench, saying, “That speaks loudly”, and the Riser Platform Five at Point Fortin which had a heavy spray of oil despite no sign of any corrosion in the pipeline.

Asked if there had been interference at the sites of the oil spills, Hassanali replied, “It would appear so.” Hassanali said in its enquiries into the cause of the oil spills, Petrotrin is “following certain leads” which it would not yet disclose. Hassanali said there has been “tremendous progress” in remedying the situation at Coffeee Beach, saying residents there are now comfortable. He admitted that any firm in this situation would be concerned about its international reputation, but said what is really important is how one responds to the crisis.

Petrotrin health, safety and environment (HSE) manager, Sham Deyal, said the oil spills had hurt only one bird which had been helped back to health at a wildlife centre, plus a few catfish, otherwise having “very minimal impact on wildlife and fisheries”.

Rough seas are helping disperse the oil, he said, which he noted is a natural not synthetic substance, as are the substances used to clean-up the spill including a soya-bean derivative and the very absorbent peat-moss.

Of the 25 Coffee Beach residents seeking medical help over the weekend, 24 had been discharged, with just one retained at Point Fortin Hospital for a pre-existing asthma condition, said Deyal.

Replying to a Newsday query, Hassanali said the oil spills would not make Petrotrin stop its seismic surveys, saying such exploration is needed so as to boost production in the industry that annually produces as much as $5 billion in taxes to the Treasury.

Fishermen yesterday called on Petrotrin to halt plans for “seismic bombings” in the Gulf of Paria in light of the oil spills. Fishermen previously protested the “bombings” saying it would affect the fish stock. Petrotrin had countered technology that uses sound and not explosives would be used for the seismic survey due to begin in January. See Page 8

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