I read with disgust and resentment, news media reports of recent statements made by Exxon’s Production Manager, Mr. Mike Ryan who carries the same tune as his boss, Mr. Routledge. There seems to be no end to the imperious and disrespectful behaviour of these two gentlemen towards the people of Guyana believing us to be fools. Emboldened by the Government, they seem to think that they own the country and see the warm hospitality and good natured-ness of our people as weakness and stupidity. This is quite unlike Mr. Rod Henson, the former Exxon Head who, even though a tough-as-nails negotiator and company loyalist, was an exemplary professional, and showed great mindfulness and respect for Government authorities, and people of Guyana. After some very stiff push back, it was Mr. Henson who agreed to, and signed the documents including the EPA Permits committing to unlimited liability coverage comprising of insurance plus parent company guarantee for coverage of all liabilities above the insurance limit.
Was it his humanity the reason why Exxon removed Mr. Henson and replaced him with the fancy and tough talking Mr. Routledge? Well, the answer became obvious when, as soon as their man Routledge arrived, he (1) threatened that if Guyana doesn’t cooperate, Exxon may take its business elsewhere; (2) ignored the legal requirements enshrined in the Liza 1 and 2 Permits signed by Mr. Henson calling for full liability coverage; (3) justified flaring by saying Guyana needs the money because things bad from COVID; (4) enjoyed the Government parroting that it is OK to flare because Guyana is a carbon sink and so has the capacity to take up more pollutants, while at the same time Exxon is committing to cut flaring by almost half in the rest of the world; (5) changed the EPA Permits from prohibition of flaring to unlimited flaring for a fee that is a laughable 3% of the money Exxon makes from the flaring; and (6) he got the Government to drop EPA’s legal proceedings against Exxon for refusing to pay a piddling fine of $500 USD for six small spills. He even enjoyed a bonus with the removal of the EPA Attorney prosecuting the case for EPA. Since he is getting paid with our oil money, Mr. Routledge should disclose to us what bonus he and Mr. Ryan receive for these accomplishments.
Just think about this my fellow Guyanese – Exxon comes into our country taking advantage of an Oil Contract described by our Honourable Vice President (VP) and Attorney General (AG) as stealing our
patrimony and as the worst contract ever which warrants renegotiations as soon as they get into office; yet these Exxon Kingpins don’t even have the manners to openly thank our Honourable VP and AG for their reneging, nor the decency to show gratefulness to the people of Guyana for resuscitating Exxon from its financial near-death. Instead, they pompously refuse to answer our basic question as to how much gas is being flared; but we must remind Exxon that this oil and gas belong to the people and not Exxon; that all data belong to the people and not Exxon; and that yes, our oil money pays all of the hefty salaries and bonuses of Mr. Routledge and Mr. Ryan. In spite of all that, the Government still kowtows and waves them on to scorn our God given right and to abuse our generosity. Our President’s proud shout-out that negotiating with Exxon is like negotiating with a superpower, speaks volumes as to how much the Government fears and reveres the Exxon boys who could enjoy such idolizing only in Guyana, but would quiver in their boots when dealing with regulators in other countries such as the USA. I know this to be so, because I was one of those regulators.
It is repulsive that their only gas talk is to insultingly boast about the pittance they throw at us as a flaring fee which turns out to be a measly 3% of the money they reap from the flaring. Simple petroleum engineering calculations say that flaring at Liza 1 could have been stopped with cutting production by a mere 7-15%, or about 7,000-15,000 barrels of oil per day (bopd), based upon the reported 7–15 million cubic feet of gas per day (mscfd) being flared. However Mr. Routledge, greed seems to be a more powerful motivation than protection of Guyana’s environment, health and safety wellbeing; because, at the current oil price of say US$100 per barrel, such a production cut would cause lost revenues of US$700,000 to US$1.5 Million per day, approximately 35 times the meagre fine of about US$21,000 to US$45,000 per day. In other words Mr. Routledge, you are making US$35 for every dollar spent in fees when you flare. If you disagree, we challenge you to reveal your hidden data that show otherwise. Besides, we are sure that even you would agree that this deal to make US$35 for each US$1 invested, is a super incentive and not a deterrence as nonsensically claimed by the Government which has turned basic environmental principles on its head.
Mr. Ryan refuses to answer the question as to how much gas is flared, but goes on to shamelessly brag that “We have met our expectation of installing the compressor and achieved background flare in July…It is a remarkable accomplishment….We have gone 1000 days without any injury”. Is Mr. Ryan really calling taking almost three years to fix a compressor their “expectation” and “remarkable accomplishment”!! even though they are on record committing to no flaring from “day one”. Even worse, is this what the Government also accepts as “our expectation” and “remarkable performance”? And to boot, does Mr. Ryan really expect anyone except of course the Government, to believe him that “the new compressor will last for a period of 20 years”, when they had originally promised no failure after day one!
I cannot believe Mr. Ryan has the nerve to brag about his safety record, but don’t hear him talking about the six spills incurred when they did not follow both the manufacturers and Exxon’s own safety instructions six times even after being warned – a clear indication of a poor safety culture and pre-cursor for more dangerous incidents. Further Mr. Ryan, when you talk about no injuries, tell us who determines what is a reportable injury? In the real world, criteria for reportable injuries are determined by competent on-site Government safety specialists (not Exxon) overseeing the operations 24/7, especially when companies with a track record like Exxon’s, cannot be trusted as evidenced by its numerous international litigations related to false reporting.
Mr. Ryan, once again you are deceptive when you talk about “achieving background flare within a record 60 days”. First, there is no way of trusting what you say, since you dodge questions about your flaring data, and you stopped publishing these data since last year for obvious reasons. Second, please also report that (1) Flaring was “prohibited” before you and the new Government changed it to unlimited flaring; (2) your promise for only one-day of flaring turned out to be close to three years; (3) the new Government’s own team of the EPA, GGMC, DOE and Canadian Consultants, unanimously directed Exxon to adopt the USA standard of 2 days for flaring, but was changed by the Government to 60 days.
Lastly Sir, your raising of the oil production rate above its safe operating limit by some 20% is callous and driven by greed compromising the environment, health and safety of the people of Guyana. The EIA pellucidly directs that the system is “designed to safely operate at sustained peaks of 120,000 bopd”. Any safety journeyman would know that a key purpose of an EIA is to set the safety envelope of an operation and that all safety limits prescribed therein, are sacred. You also fully well know that you and Exxon would suffer grave consequences including shutdown of operations for violating such limits in other countries such as the USA; and that such limits could only be changed through a safety review process that may include public involvement, and concludes with an addendum to the EIA. You did none of that!
On top of it, you are not complying with the required full liability coverage; thus putting the nation in double jeopardy of increasing the risk of an accident by recklessly exceeding the safe operating limit, and also not having full liability coverage to clean up a spill. To add insult to injury, you and Mr. Routledge have made it crystal clear that you have every intention of challenging payments of costs for a spill unless it is “legitimate” and “reasonable”; but this is no surprise at all, for how could anyone expect you to pay for a possible multi-billion dollars spill, when you refused to pay the miniscule US$500 fine to the EPA for clear violations. In any case Sir, you need to explain to the people which part of a spill is not “legitimate” and “reasonable”.
Mr. Routledge and Mr. Ryan, Guyana may be a third world country, but despite what you think, we have first world brains and can read what has happened right in our own back yard of Peru, where the oil company way under-reported an oil spill size that has devastated the country’s environment and health, leaving Peru with a cleanup mess; and forced the Government and citizens to take compelling actions such as stopping Company officials like yourselves from leaving the country, and suing the company for more than $4.5 Billion USD.
I think I speak for most Guyanese in saying that we no doubt welcome big oil and are willing to share our God given riches in a fair and equitable manner; with respect for our rule of law, health, safety and the environment; and most certainly without the eye pass. To this end, we intend to stand up for what is ours, and not allow oil masters their desire for the rebirth of colonization in enriching themselves, while making us poorer with a government that openly represents their interests instead of ours. We therefore call upon you Mr. Routledge, to come down from your high horse and treat Guyana with the fairness, equity and the respect we deserve, and to start with renegotiating the contract as a show of goodwill.
Dr. Vincent Adams
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