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Thieves raid oil facility causing big spill

Wednesday, February 20, 2013
Members of a Petrotrin clean-up crew remove oil from the beach after a ruptured nipple on a Petrotrin line poured hundreds of barrels of oil into the surrounding area and sea at Pt Coco Beach near Cap de Ville. PHOTO: KRISTIAN DE SILVA

A day after thieves carted away pipelines which caused a massive oil spill in Point Fortin, Petrotrin president Khalid Hassanali said it was impossible for the company to secure all of its installations around T&T. Hassanali said Petrotrin’s assets were too vast to have security officers posted everywhere, although the company must continue to be vigilant about its security.


Admitting the oil spill could have a negative impact on the environment, he gave the assurance that all dangers had been averted, as crews had already completed mopping-up operations. Reports said around 1 am on Monday, thieves entered the unsecured Mount Pellier Line Transfer Facility at North Trace, Cap-de-Ville, where they cut an eight-inch pipeline.


While they were removing the line, it fell onto a 12-inch line, causing damage to a one-inch nipple which resulted in approximately 20 barrels of oil seeping into the sea. However, a conservative estimate of the leakage was actually between 400 and 600 barrels, as the oil spill travelled several miles west to Point Coco Beach in Granville which is popular swimming and fishing area.


Company officials said the Montpellier Line Transfer Facility transfers the oil coming from Trinmar’s offshore platforms to the Trinmar Tank Farm in Point Ligoure, Point Fortin, for processing. The source said news of the leak did not reach Trinmar officials until 9 am on Monday, leaving the oil to ooze for close to five hours. 



One Point Coco resident said she heard loud noises around 1 am that day and by 4 am, she was awakened by the overpowering scent of the oil. When she walked onto the beach at 7 am she saw oil on the water. A release from Petrotrin yesterday said the Environmental Management Authority (EMA), the Ministry of Energy and Energy Affairs, the coast guard, and police had been notified.


The release said: “Petrotrin mobilised its Incident Command Team and the necessary actions are being put into place to address this situation. “Containment, clean-up, investigations and thorough monitoring of the incident will continue,” it said. Despite warnings from Petrotrin to fishermen not to  fish in the area, a few fishing vessels were seen floating around at Point Coco Beach.


Around noon yesterday, they left as clean-up crews began pouring a chemical called Cansorb into the water. Hassanali said Cansorb was an all-organic, oil-only sorbent which absorbs oil from the water, and was a modern, environmentally friendly substance. As the T&T Guardian team entered Point Coco Beach, a foreman made a phone call, saying: “We have an emergency down here...The media has reached.”


Hassanali yesterday admitted the company had been plagued by bandits. “Yes, these thefts have happened to us frequently, but it is impossible to man all locations as we have installations all over the country with cables, pipelines and generators,” he said. “We have a large land mass and large offshore area to patrol and we have patrols both on land and offshore. 


“But we just have to continue to be vigilant with our security,” he said. Hassanali said it was too early to determine the cost of the leak or the impact on the environment. 


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