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Gas leak shuts down Erin

Published: 
Monday, September 15, 2014

Erin residents could not prepare Sunday lunch as they were afraid to light their stoves. Two people were taken to hospital and several residents were forced to leave their homes after a gas well operated by Lease Operators Ltd ruptured in Erin on Saturday. Yesterday crews from the company and Petrotrin were trying to contain the leak as gas continued to be released into the air, causing panic among villagers. 

Head of corporate social responsibility at Petrotrin George Comissiong said employees of Lease Operators were working on the well when the leak occurred. Comissiong said two people fell ill and Petrotrin ambulance took them to their Santa Flora medical centre where they were treated and discharged. He was unable to give the names or status of the affected residents, but said their symptoms were minor.

Another resident Merle Sooknanan-Toorie had to use the ambulance to be transported to a relative’s home after she began to feel dizzy. A relative said the entire family of seven had to leave home because of the pungent smell. The leak began at around 10 pm on Saturday when personnel from Lease Operators were working on Well IPS 537, which is leased to that company under Petrotrin’s Lease Operatorship Programme, Petrotrin revealed in a news release.

The pump failed, resulting in mud, oil and gas leaking out near #9 Road, Santa Flora. Fitzroy Guevara, who lives close by, said he noticed men pumping water into the well around 5 pm and about three hours later, gas started to “blow out.”  Despite the strong smell of gas, he said he stayed home while his neighbours spent the night at relatives’ homes.

“Gas is something that spreads in the night so when we smelled gas, we stayed at home, but the people across the road went down the road to stay with their cousins. The scent was strong, but I worked in oil and gas so I am accustomed,” Guevara said.

Another resident, Trevor Joseph, said when he reached his home around 3 am yesterday, Petrotrin personnel asked him if he had anywhere else he could stay. Joseph said, because his family lived in Point Fortin, he opted to leave his windows open and the fans on despite an uncomfortable feeling.

In the release, Petrotrin said senior personnel from its health and safety, security and operations departments gave support to Lease Operators’ emergency response efforts. “The area was secured to minimise any adverse impact to the environment and the neighbouring community,” the release said. 

The Ministry of Energy and Energy Affairs, the Environmental Management Authority (EMA), the Occupational Safety and Health Agency (Osha), the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service and other regulatory agencies were notified. Investigations are ongoing.
The well was brought under control yesterday at around 4.10 pm.

Car crashes into oil line
In a separate incident, close to 150 barrels of oil were recovered by Petrotrin after a car crashed into an active 10 inch line in Point Fortin yesterday. The unnamed driver, who had reportedly lost control of the vehicle, was taken to the Point Fortin Area Hospital by Petrotrin security officers and later transferred to the San Fernando General Hospital. In a media release yesterday, Petrotrin said that around 5.22 am, patrolling security officers saw the car overturned on the roadside near Damus Ltd. 

On checking further, the officers found that a spool had ruptured causing crude oil and water to escape onto the road side. Emergency teams installed booms and other containment devices as vacuum trucks were used to recover the seepage. Up to late yesterday, clean-up operations were continuing as repairs to the line was expected to be completed by today. Comissiong said the line transport crude out from Trinmar to the Pointe-a-Pierre refinery.

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