“Is time we Trinidadians understand
We got to help the other small islands
We can’t eat pitch oil with rice and jam
All the oil we have in our nation
Is just a drop in the Arabian Ocean” – Mighty Chalkdust Sea Water and Sand
Oil spill after oil spill each with investigations and no published results, each bringing environmental degradation, each harming the residents of the area, each killing numerous marine species, each injuring many birds and each going by under the radar. WHAT IS REALLY GOING ON ?
What is causing these spills ?
Is it that we have oil to waste ?
Is it that the plants and animals just love oil ?
Or the people just love to inhale the fumes and swim in oil filled waters?
WHAT IS REALLY GOING ON ?
For more than 100 years Trinidad and Tobago has been involved in the petroleum sector undertaking substantial oil and gas exploration activity on land and in shallow water with cumulative production totalling over three (3) billion barrels of oil. As the largest oil and natural gas producer in the Caribbean, Trinidad and Tobago’s hydrocarbon sector moved from an oil dominant to a mostly natural gas based sector in the early 1990s. In Trinidad and Tobago oil and natural gas are the country’s most significant non-renewable resources contributing 36.2% to the country’s GDP.
So clearly, let’s have oil spills!
All phases of oil and gas production ( extraction, transportation and refining ) can potentially cause serious environmental disturbances.
Let’s take a look at oil spills. Simply put an oil spill occurs when liquid petroleum hydrocarbon is released into the environment, especially marine areas, due to human activity. The term is usually applied to marine oil spills, where oil is released into the ocean or coastal waters, however spills may also occur on land. Oil spills may originate from :
A number of factors influence the duration and impacts of oil spills such as :
How do we clean up an oil spill ?
Now what is happening in Trinidad ??????
1979– Back in 1979, one of the worst recorded oil spills in history happened just ten miles off Tobago. On July 19 that year, two vessels loaded with a combined total of about 500,000 tonnes of crude oil collided causing fires on both ships, and resulting oil spills. According to reports, the total loss of the 280,000 tonnes of oil as a result of that collision was in the top ten of world records for an oil tanker accident.
December 17th -29th 2013– On December 17th, the 16 inch Sea Line No 10 operated by the Trinidad National Oil Company Petrotrin ruptured at the bottom of the Gulf of Paria near the company’s Pointe-a-Pierre refinery. It was reported as a single oil spill near the south western town of La Brea but at the end of the month 10 more spills occurred totaling at 11 oil spills. It was speculated that the oil spill was as a direct result of poorly maintained pipelines that exploded as they had not been inspected for over 17 years. The oil spill affected Pointe-a-Pierre, Point Fortin, La Brea and other surrounding communities. Below is the chronological order of events between the 13th and 29th of December.
- Pointe-a-Pierre, 2013 December 17, Tuesday – A leak was discovered on the No. 10 Sea Line at the Petrotrin Pointe-a-Pierre Port during fuel oil bunkers loading operations for the barge Marabella. The cause was identified to be a failed chain support not apparently defective during previous routine inspections
- Point Fortin, Petrotrin’s Marine Operations, December 17, Tuesday – A gasket on a 16” line on Riser Platform 5 in Main Field area leaked and oil spilled into the sea
- La Brea, 2013 December 18, Wednesday – Petrotrin received reports of oil at the Coffee Beach/Carrat Shed Beach areas in la Brea, affecting the beach and fishing vessels
- Point Fortin, 2013 December 19, Thursday – An oil leak was reported in the area of Platform 17 in Petrotrin’s Marine Operations East Field
- Rancho Quemado – Erin, 2013 December 21, Saturday – Oil leak reported from Lease Operators (to Petrotrin) Trinity Exploration and Production. Two (2) three inch (3”) bull plugs were discovered removed from two (2) separate wellsite production tanks resulting in approximately one hundred (100) barrels of oil being discharged into the environment
- Brighton Marine Field – 2013 December 24, Tuesday – Oil was reported leaking from Well Antilles Brighton Marine (ABM) 151 in the Brighton Marine Field, operated by Joint Venture Operators (with Petrotrin) Trinity Exploration and Production
- Brighton Marine Field – 2013 December 24, Tuesday – A second report was received that oil was leaking from a leaking conductor on well ABM 67 on Brighton Marine Platform 3
- Moruga, Hudlin Trace, Rock River Village – 2013 December 26, Thursday – Residents reported oil flowing down the Marac River in Moruga and emanating from the Moruga West Joint Venture (with Petrotrin) operated by Neal and Massy Energy Resources Limited (NMERL). A senior NMERL official indicated in a 2013 December 27, Friday newspaper article that “The cause is yet to be ascertained. We are still investigating. It was an old line but in excellent condition.”
- Pointe-a-Pierre, Port and Marine Facilities, 2013 December 26, Thursday – It was observed that No. 15 Sea Line, during the pumping of fuel oil to a tanker, became detached from Main Viaduct and fell into the sea, resulting in a quantity of fuel oil being spilled into the sea. The cause was identified to be a failed chain support not apparently defective during previous routine inspections.
What was the total volume of oil leaked ?????
Clearly that oil spill wasn’t enough so let’s have another one !
July 29th 2014 – The base of Petrotrins Mp6 tank at the Point-a-Pierre Refinery ruptured which caused the release of approximately 17,844 barrels of slop oil (combination of oil, water and sediment). The bund (enclosure around the tank designed to handle spills from containing tanks) failed which caused the slop oil to escape the bund. Further investigations revealed that the slop oil entered a guard basin (AP14) but it was unable to handle the volume of the release, which lead to the slop eventually entering the Gulf-of-Paria.
July 27th 2016 – The Environmental Management Authority released a statement saying that around 3pm, on Wednesday 27th of July they were informed of a sheen within the Brighton Marine Sun Area “ B” block operated by Trinity Exploration and Production Limited .
You may be asking where is the rest of information? I would like to know myself. This is all that was made available to the public via the newspaper.
August 3rd 2016 – There were reports of oil stained waters at Mosquito Creek and beaches in La Brea, Vessigny, Clifton Hill/ Guapo and Cedros.
August 19th– 20th 2016 – A Petrotin discharge line from an oil to shore pump of Trinmar’s Platform 17 developed a leak. Reports indicated that the oil spill occurred sometime between Thursday the 19th of August and the morning of Friday 20th . The discharge line which pumps crude from Platform 17 to Trinmar’s tank is located approximately four miles from shore. There was serious speculation that the leak was developed as a result of infrastructural issues as the pipes were in dire need of an upgrade.
September 11th 2016 – Alvin La Borde, the president of the La Brea Fisher folk Association stated that on Sunday 11th of September oil was seen emanating from well ABM 37 located in the Brighton Marine Field.
January 21st 2017 – On the morning of Saturday 21st January 2017 pools of thick oil washed ashore at Coffee Beach which according to the fisher folk of the area was the second such incident for the month. The origin of the oil is not certain however there was an alleged oil spill one-week prior which came from the East Field Trinmar operations. The oil observed appeared to be weathered oil which indicates that it has been out there for some time.
April 23th 2017 – a fuel oil storage tank was ruptured at Petrotrin’s Pointe-a-Pierre refinery on Sunday 23th April around 2:45 pm when tank 70 sprung a leak at its based, spilling 20,000 gallons / 300 barrels into the Gulf-of-Paria. The refinery contained 12, 853 barrels of oil however, the majority of spilled oil was contained within the refinery with some escaping into the marine environment. Tidal conditions suggested that the oil was heading in a north westerly direction, with recent reports stating that the oil has reached Venezuelan waters.
Oil spill after oil spill each causing serious detrimental effects to both human and marine life. The impacts from these oil spills are as follow:
- The country’s numerous oil spills has put the country’s marine and freshwater animals that inhabit the bodies of water near the Pointe-a-Pierre base, such as Queens Beach, Coffee Beach and the Caribbean Sea in harms way. Numerous turtles, dolphins, corbeaux stingrays, crustaceans and a wide variety of bottom feeding fish wash onshore dead on daily basis from since 2013.
- The fumes from the oil spills has reportedly made residents of the area very ill, causing respiratory problems, diarrhea, skin rashes/burning, eye burning, vomiting, acid re-flux and muscle weakness.
- The livelihood of fishermen in the area are severely threatened as their boats are drenched with oil, the water is filled with oil, the animals are dying and heavily polluted and they cannot breathe whilst at sea. They are struggling to support themselves and their families.
- The dispersants used can cause damage to the insultating properties of seabird feathers making birds more susceptible
The effects of these oil spills are truly saddening but why is the public is turning a blind eye?
Out of sight out of mind?
We as citizens continue to neglect the impacts major corporations and companies have on the environment and they need to be held accountable.
Why is it that these oil spills are occurring so frequently ?
The information concerning the oil spills were all received from newspaper articles. Information is difficult to obtain and I cannot understand why. Is that there is something to hide? something is being covered up ? These oil spills are affecting the public and the public deserves to know what is going on and what is being done to mitigate and prevent future spills. The amount of oil being spilled is unknown or unpublished in many circumstances, the impacts are being watered down and investigations are turning up empty handed.
Our waters are crying, our animals are dying and our people are suffering !
What about corporate social responsibility and the aftermath of an incident?
It is time we start asking questions, we start demanding answers, we stop being selfish and we demand better for our environment and our people.
WE NEED THE EARTH MORE THAN IT NEEDS US !