Thursday 23 November, 2017

Total's Amazon drilling plans poses 72% oil spill risk for T&T

Oil giant Total is dismissing results from its own Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) results that a proposed drilling project near the mouth of the Amazon river could spell disaster for Caribbean countries such as Trinidad and Tobago, St Vincent and the Grenadines and St Lucia.

According to a report by EnergyDesk Greenpeace, the results of the EIA showed there was a maximum 72 percent chance that a prospective oil spill could reach Trinidad and Tobago, an up to 49 percent chance it could impact St Vincent and the Grenadines, and an up to 37 percent chance oil could damage the island of St Lucia.

The EIA was conducted on the proposed site of the Foz do Amazonas basin, an oil-rich area of sea 120 kilometres from the mouth of the Amazon in Brazil.

The results were first submitted to the Brazilian environment agency IBAMA in 2015 as part of the EIA, and survived subsequent revisions.

The Amazon reef itself also faces significant spill risk, with the modelling commissioned by Total showing there could be an up to 30% chance of oil reaching the reef.

While the plans are yet to be approved by the Brazilian government, Total said to New Scientist that the countries and statistics provided are "hypothetical" and refer to a location where "no specific drilling is planned" 

The company added that some models also showed what would happen if a spill was left untended for 60 days, which it says it would not do.

Patricia Turpin, head of Environment Tobago, said the results are "disturbing", while James Lord, Executive Director at Sustainable Grenadines, said if an oil spill were to hit the Grenadines, it would be a "disaster for the local environment and people". 

“Clearly an oil spill would disastrous for local livelihoods. In my opinion, this is an unacceptable level of risk," Lord said.

Trinidad and Tobago is still recovering from the effects of Petotrin's disastrous 2013 oil spill, while another spill earlier this year resulted in toxic crude damaging coastlines along Venezuela and the ABC islands (Aruba, Bonaire, Curaçao).