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Size Of Oil Spill Still A Mystery

By DENISE MAYCOCK

Tribune Freeport Reporter

dmaycock@tribunemedia.net

FOUR weeks after Hurricane Dorian, Equinor still does not know how much oil was spilled from its South Riding Point facility in East Grand Bahama or the exact parameters of the land area that was affected, an official said.

Equinor has engaged an independent firm to monitor the area near for potential groundwater contamination and officials maintain they are heavily focused on getting clean-up done right.

On Friday, it was revealed that about 12,000 barrels of oil and water have been recovered by clean-up crews in response to the oil spill triggered by Hurricane Dorian.

Before the storm, the terminal had 1.8 million barrels of crude oil stored. However at a media briefing onsite nearly a month after the disaster, Equinor Operations Manager Kevin Stuart admitted that they still do not know the full extent of the impact.

Mr Stuart said an “independent certified” Bahamian firm, Geosyntec, has been contracted to investigate by drilling wells in the impacted area to monitor groundwater.

The dome-shaped lids of two storage tanks – numbers six and ten – at the facility were blown off and oil was dispersed in the area as Hurricane Dorian unleashed 185mph winds and pummeled the island for about 40 hours.

Mr Stuart was confident on Friday that there was no spill to the ocean and that the incident occurred onshore, just north of their facility.

The event is being called “the worst disaster” ever in the company’s history.

Equinor’s oil-stained administrative building is no longer able to accommodate its 54 employees, who have been relocated to the Pelican Bay Resort at Port Lucaya.

“We have a situation in front of us; I call it an act of God – we have a spill – and we want to clean it up safely,” Mr Stuart said at the company’s command centre, located on board one of the mega response vessels docked at its terminal, equipped with a heli-pad and a 16-seater helicopter.

He said at the time of the storm, only three tanks contained crude oil. Storage tank number 8, which was not compromised, contained 410,178.91 barrels of oil. Of the two damaged storage tanks, number six contained 729,681.08 barrels and number ten contained 730,707.01 barrels.

“Right now, we cannot speak to volumes that was spilled because we just do not know. Two tanks damaged by tornadic activity, we cannot safely assess them to get volumes.

“We had 1.8 million barrels of product at the facility, and of the three tanks that contained oil, only two were compromised,” he explained. “So, obviously, there was a spill, but for me to see they are saying 1.8 million barrels was spilled, I can’t quantify it. I can only show you the facts. We cannot give out figures, but you can see 1.8 million barrels can’t be what was spilled.”

There are 13 vacuum trucks and a team of 250 responders from both international and local response organisations on the ground, company officials told reporters on Friday.

When The Tribune arrived at the facility, the top layer of the oil-soaked ground in the immediate area had been scraped up into a pile, and men in green florescent vests and suits were busy with clean up and monitoring on the ground.

East End has vast well fields that serve as a water supply to residents on Grand Bahama. Since the storm, however, water quality has been reduced significantly due to the widespread surge of sea water that flooded about 80 percent of the island on September 2.

Mr Stuart indicated that ground water contamination is a concern with any oil spill that occurs on land.

“I know it is a concern for everyone, and to us. So, we will investigate the groundwater around the area impacted. We have already identified the area of interest where we want to continue to monitor,” he said.

He said the investigation could take between one to three months as determined.

“We have an independent contractor Geosyntec from the Bahamas that will drill to investigate groundwater contamination. So, it won’t be us determining that. We have an independent certified Bahamian company that will do that,” said Mr Stuart.

“But our plan is to restore groundwater wells along the areas that were affected. That is very important; they will... monitor the water all around the area impacted.”

Mr Stuart said that clean-up is paramount to the company.

He assured government that “special waste” - free standing oil - taken up from the road will be exported from the country to a proper disposal facility.

Any contaminated metal will be cleaned on-site, contaminated debris will be shredded, and contaminated water will be held in retention pots, he said.

When questioned about the actual size of the area affected, a response official said: “We do not have the exact kilometres impacted, but we are dealing with it and we will have a better assessment when we go in the air, and as time goes on we will be able to determine that.”

It took Equinor several says after the spill to get to the affected areas.

Mr Stuart said that access by road was impossible right after the storm, but their strike team was able to assess the situation at the facility by helicopter.

Assessments are continuing daily.

“We have constant surveillance going on now by air, ship, and by foot. We have numerous flyovers all across Grand Bahama today (Friday), and there is not any evidence of oil hitting the water.

“. . .We have continued to survey the area, our families live here and this is important to us. The key for us is to get it right,” vowed Mr Stuart.

A Wildlife Response Unit was set up on the compound where an expert reported that they were tending to two birds that were affected by the spill. The team is still trying to locate and capture five other birds and a goat that were also affected.

A team of expert responders gave a brief update of their findings at the site.

They are only detecting “low levels of VOCs” (volatile organic compounds). No btex compounds - benzene, toluene, ethyl, or xylene - have been detected, according to an expert at the facility.

“We are not seeing any actionable levels; we are monitoring inside the containment berms of the tanks and the roadway, Grand Bahama Highway, from check point to check point,” said one company representative.

The representative indicated that the substances they were most concerned about are benzene and volatile hydrocarbons.

“The good thing about the warm weather and the wind is that it tends to evaporate and disappears quickly so the measurements we have done show very favourable outcome,” he reported.

He also said that they have not seen any actionable levels to require respiration protection at this point.

The company has contracted two independent assessment firms as part of the clean-up: Polaris and Oil Spill Responders Ltd.

Comments

Well_mudda_take_sic 9 months, 1 week ago

Link for info on Geosyntec (Bahamas) Limited:

http://www.geosyntec-bahamas.com">http://www.geosyntec-bahamas.com

And here's all you need to know about Jerome Gomez:

http://globalcmltd.com/about.html">http://globalcmltd.com/about.html

Jerome Gomez is well entrenched within the political elite in our country having served as a Senator under the previous Christie-led PLP government. The political elite, whether of the FNM or PLP variety, always seem to be lurking behind the scenes to protect their own at the expense of the Bahamian people.

The fact that he served as Retail Sales Manager at Shell Bahamas from 1990 to 2001, before starting Global Corporate Management Ltd., may well indicate that Franky Wilson a/k/a Snake is also in the background. Snake's fuel business, FOCOL/Shell Bahamas, would naturally have an interest in the outcome of Geosyntec's assessment of the environmental damage caused by the Equinor oil spill. This in and of itself has the appearance of a possible conflict of interest.

But the real conflict of interest here arises from Jerome Gomez serving as Resident Manager of the Bahamas Petroleum Company PLC, a company seeking to explore for oil in the Bahamas. This has him serving two masters at the same time, i.e. Geosyntec Consultants and Bahamas Petroleum Company PLC. How can Geosyntec possibly be objective in its assessment of the environmental damage caused by the Equinor oil spill in Eastern Grand Bahama?

One can only assume PM Minnis and his minister of environmental affairs are well aware of these conflicting relationships.

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Well_mudda_take_sic 9 months, 1 week ago

Our nation's lengthy and useless National Oil Spill Contingency Plan (the Plan) was produced from a Caribbean region boiler plate that was developed in large part by oil industry representatives seeking to reduce their own obligations and legal risks in the event of a major spill in our region. Talk about conflict of interest!

A Bahamian politically connected muck-a-muck consultant was likely contracted and paid a small fortune by the government of the day for tailoring the boiler plate for the Bahamas. Paragraph 4.1.4 on page 12 of the Plan is most telling. From a national policy standpoint, that particular paragraph states that in the event of a major spillage of oil: "At best, The Bahamas will be able to dispose of only small amounts of oily residue and waste within the islands."

The words 'hurricane' or 'storm' do not appear anywhere in the Plan - not once!. Simply unbelievable.

Just how stupid can our dumber than dumb corrupt politicians be??!!

And to think our Ducking' & Dodgin' Doc is still hell-bent on allowing the huge OBAN storage and transshipment facility planned for Eastern Grand Bahama to proceed. Is he nuts or just plain greedy??!!

Below is a link to our National Oil Spill Contingency Plan:

http://www.racrempeitc.org/sites/defa...">http://www.racrempeitc.org/sites/defa...

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TheMadHatter 9 months, 1 week ago

It is too bad that the Bahamas is the first country on the planet ever in history to have an oil spill. Those you may have heard about in the Gulf and in Alaska and in the mid-east are only vicious rumours designed by so-called historians to make the FNM look bad. Exxon Valdez? Who ever heard of it?

There being no technical know-how and experience in the entire world which knows how to measure the size of an oil spill, we are therefore left at the mercy of the idiots at Equinox and their 6 inch rulers which they have borrowed from their kids' geometry sets.

Hopefully Alaska and Louisiana and Venezuela and Trinidad and Saudia Arabia etc will all fly in their oil safety people and bring BLANK notebooks so that they can take notes and learn a thing or two as this mystery is tackled by coatsuit wearing oil executives.

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spoitier 9 months, 1 week ago

He said he don't know how many oil had spilled, but if you had 1.8 million barrels won't the oil spill would be 1.8 m barrels - whatever was left in those 2 oil tanks? If the oil is not in the thank it has to be on the ground somewhere.

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Islandboy242242 9 months, 1 week ago

Article Quote: "He said at the time of the storm, only three tanks contained crude oil. Storage tank number 8, which was not compromised, contained 410,178.91 barrels of oil. Of the two damaged storage tanks, number six contained 729,681.08 barrels and number ten contained 730,707.01 barrels"

From the aerial photos we can tell something is in the damaged tanks, but.....since oil floats on water, I guess these geniuses can't figure out how much oil vs water is in the tanks. And how many barrels equals a tank that is 1/4 full... So they say its 729,681 + 730,707 barrels = 1,460,388 barrels total in the 2 tanks. So I'm guessing probably 1 million or 1.2 million barrels spilled.

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spoitier 9 months, 1 week ago

Someone who use to do work down there told me that they use to keep those tanks full to capacity which was not a procedure that Buckeyes use to do. So we have a lousy Government that allows these company to come into the country and do as there please without supervision. Now, I am not sure what is the capacity of those tanks but the two with the most oil was the two that the top blowed off. That goes to show that if the tank was lower, which means the floating top would have bean lower and wind would've had a hard time getting under the top to blow it off. Also, if only 3 tanks had oil it would have made sense to transfer oil to some other tanks to lower the floating roof on those two.

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Sickened 9 months, 1 week ago

Boy oh boy. If Geosyntec can't help Equinor figure out how much oil is remaining in one of the tanks then I don't think they are the right company to investigate the impact to our ground water table.

I mean all you need to do is stick a pvc pipe straight down the oil storage unit then put your thumb on the top of the pipe and then pull the pipe out. Empty the contents into a clear container, let it settle and you'll see just how much water (if any) is settled below the oil. That same ratio can be used to see how many gallons of oil are in the storage tank.

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Well_mudda_take_sic 9 months, 1 week ago

Even before Dorian, major hurricanes in recent times such as Katrina and Rita have highlighted the vulnerability of above ground oil storage tanks to hurricane-induced loading caused by rapid significant declines in barometric pressure, high storm surge and sustained F-4+ tornado force winds. Statoil and its subsidiary, Equinor, would have been well aware of this fact and also the increasing frequency of major hurricanes in recent times due to changing climate patterns and global warming.

There is therefore a reasonable expectation for Equinor to have ensured that its storage tanks in eastern Grand Bahama were suitably designed and built (or later structurally reinforced) with load tolerances well in excess of those that would likely be induced by a category 5+ hurricane. But aerial photos taken of the storage facility immediately after Dorian show that the lids or tops of at least four of the storage tanks had been completely removed (blown away) thereby exposing the toxic oil contents to the surrounding environment, including possibly the sea. A thorough independent investigation is necessary to determine whether Statoil/Equinor could and should have taken reasonable precautionary measures that would have prevented the tanks from being so severely breached.

It is perhaps worth noting that the U.S. government imposed a fine on BP of $4,300 per barrel of oil spilled in the Gulf of Mexico as a result of the Deep Water Horizon incident. The total BP fine exceeded $18 billion.

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johnmcntsh 9 months, 1 week ago

Just an Idea from an outsider. In other countries including the U.S. the oil industry itself MUST fund a Nonprofit (please note: nonprofit) company which has experts in spills AND will rush in barges, well drilling equipment, mechanical booms etc. The Group in the states is called MSRP and as they are funded by the oil company's they are like fire departments but are oil spill experts. Just a thought.

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Engineer 9 months, 1 week ago

Certified Bahamian company? Certified by whom? You are playing with lives and health. Do not mess around. Get the internationally recognized experts. Please do not play with our health and environment. There is more than one goat and tthree birds at stake.

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