Anna-Lisa Paul and Bobie-Lee Dixon
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La Brea oil spill not our fault—Trinity
Trinity Exploration and Production plc has again distanced itself from the oil spills attributed to it along the south-western peninsula. The company’s operations were blamed for at least two of the 11 spills, at La Brea and at its Well 151, since the region was affected by the devastating oil spill.
During an interview at the company's head office in San Fernando last Friday, however, Trinity chairman Bruce Dingwall and CEO Monty Pemberton showed tidal maps to demonstrate that even if its offshore installations were to have a spill—which they say they did not—the oil would not come up on the shores of La Brea. Pemberton said: “The oil spill in La Brea is not due to Trinity.” Producing glassfuls of crude samples, he showed one with crude rolling off the glass, and another with a thicker viscosity.
He said: “This is the crude from our Brighton Field crude (rolling off the glass). This is the crude on the beach at La Brea (visibly thicker).” He said Trinity had to spend about two years getting an environmental impact assessment (EIA) and part of it looked at the currents in the entire Gulf of Paria. He showed excerpts from the EIA, which he said were done by an independent third party, with the tides flowing far south. “If you had an oil spill in Brighton, the oil would go southerly, based on the currents,” he said. “It’s not Trinity’s fault at all.”
Asked if he agreed that it was sabotage, he said that was a very strong word, and would only say: “I can very easily understand why it can be called sabotage, and we are investigating.” Pemberton said reports have been made to the police and did not want to comment further on the ongoing investigations.
He said the one leak of crude on a Trinity site was land-based, at Rancho Quemado on December 21, and was less than 90 barrels (bbls), which did not qualify it to be even a tier one oil spill. He said it was contained within hours, and showed pictures of the cleaned-up site.
He said a television crew from CNMG had viewed the site, as did officials from the government ministries and the Environmental Management Authority. Pemberton said: “The word sabotage may be strong,” but the leak was “abnormal,” because one has to know how to unfix “bull plugs” affixed to installations. Pemberton also asked that differentiation be made between what happened onshore and what had happened offshore. “The overall oil spill I would say is bad and needs to be cleaned up,” he said.
It is very important “that we recognise the industry is way too important for the country,” he added, calling for everyone to come together to resolve the situation. Trinity plc’s founder Dingwall, a UK-decorated Trinidad-born North Sea oil veteran, said he had come from London specifically to deal with the non-factual information circulating about the company. Dingwall is a geologist born in Pointe-a-Pierre.
He said: “The important thing is that Rancho Quemado (onshore leak) and the La Brea spill are not related. That’s just a coincidence in time.”
Pemberton also noted that there were reported leaks in some cases that were not actual leaks but “oil sheens.” Dingwall said all Trinity had were two “oil sheens,” which are very common, and also occur in nature. He said the oil sheens added up to less than 1 bbl. Pemberton and Dingwall said that even if there were to be a spill from one of Trinity's assets, it would be taken very far from La Brea by the tides. Pemberton said: “Petrotrin is our partner, so we are supporting them.”
He said Trinity had done an oil spill workshop in La Brea in October 2013, in the event they had one, which they did not. “That's what we do with our communities,” Pemberton said. Tiger Tanks was a partner in the workshop. This is the same company that was called in as one of the first responders to the ongoing spill. Pemberton said Trinity’s approach is to “teach a man how to fish rather than give him a fish.”