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Cabinet unveils new oil spill plan with land, sea in mind
Cabinet has approved a new national oil spill contingency plan. The new plan replaces one that existed since August 1977, said Energy Minister Kevin Ramnarine. “So it is the first time we have updated our national oil spill contingency plan in 36 years. This, of course, is timely because we now have six deepwater blocks under production sharing contracts—two by bpTT and four with BHP Billiton.
“We expect that given these contractual commitments, those companies have made or will make for those blocks, that there will be significant drilling activity in our deepwater,” Ramnarine said at Thursday’s post Cabinet news conference. Deepwater is water in excess of 1,000 metres. The minister said the plan is devised to mitigate the effect of oil spills, both on land and in the marine environment.
Ramnarine said the plan is timely as T&T’s oil and gas industry has greatly expanded and more areas have opened up for hydrocarbon exploration and production today than in 1977.
“The plan is also timely with regard to the fact that you would recall that in April 2010, there was one of the worst oilspills in recorded history in the United States involving BP and other companies, and that has caused the entire world to reevaluate their whole response to oilspills. The plan is also couched in that context,” Ramnarine said.
He said 18 government agencies and oil and gas companies worked to develop the plan in the last 18 months, including the Ministry of Energy, the Coast Guard and the Environmental Management Authority.
“The newly-approved plan abolishes the area control system where the marine area was divided into five areas. Now in its place the plan speaks to the establishment by petroleum operators of what they call a Tier II oil spill response organisation to co-ordinate all responses when the responsible party cannot handle the spill. A Tier I spill is one in which the responsible company can handle on its own,” Ramnarine said.
He spoke of an oil spill that took place at Invader’s Bay in December 2011 for which Powergen, which has bunkered fuel opposite its facilities along Wrightson Road, took responsibility for and contained, describing that as an example of a Tier I oil spill.
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