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–ExxonMobil says disappointed by equipment failure, repairs could take eight weeks
By Lisa Hamilton
President of ExxonMobil Guyana, Alistair Routledge assured the media on Monday that the challenges experienced by the Liza Destiny FPSO Flash Gas Compression (FGC) system, which has led to the flaring of some 16 million cubic feet of gas per day, is not as a result of higher than recommended productivity.
The third stage FGC compressor – where the problem lies — is en route to Germany for inspection where it will take approximately eight weeks to repair. However, ExxonMobil also hopes to determine whether the issues currently faced by the compressor is linked to that of the previous issues faced in 2020 which also resulted in high amounts of flaring.
When ExxonMobil first encountered the issue with the FGC compressor, it was producing at an average of 130,000 barrels per day (bpd). Now the FPSO, while injecting 88 per cent of the gas produced and flaring, is producing approximately 120,000 bpd. The equipment failed since January 27, 2021.
Routledge told the media that ExxonMobil would prefer not to be in its current situation of flaring high amounts of gas. “Mike [Ryan, Production Manager] and the team are working hard to try to minimize that flaring as much as possible every day but, just to put it in context, the Kingston Power Plant has higher emissions than the flaring we’re talking about. So, this isn’t extreme emissions,” Routledge submitted.
Furthermore, the ExxonMobil Guyana President explained that while the Company understands the concerns regarding flaring, the flare system is a critical safety device which eliminates the risk of fire or explosion and allows the facility to rapidly reduce the gas inventory to zero. He also assured the media that the challenges experienced by the specially-designed compressor remain a mystery to the Company and are not linked to any form of strenuous operations.
Routledge said: “Everything we’ve been doing with the FPSO is within its designed parameters. At no time have we done anything that’s outside of the overall design parameters of the equipment and so, this failure is not linked to any higher production capacity test that we’re doing.”
Meanwhile, ExxonMobil Guyana Production Manager, Mike Ryan thoroughly explained the FGC compressor and what ExxonMobil is doing to correct the issues faced. He noted that the FGC cannot simply be ‘bought off the shelf’ but was specially designed for the Liza Destiny FPSO. Like Routledge, he assured that while the total gas handling capacity is 190 standard cubic feet per day, at the time of the encountered issue, the FPSO was only at 70 per cent of that amount.
“This facility, I want to make it clear, is fully designed for the rates that we’ve been running at, both gas and liquid capacity,” he said. “I’m not happy with the flare above the pilot levels, I don’t want to be there but rest assured that we are injecting the vast majority of the gas that we’re developing offshore on the Liza Destiny.”
From initial assessment, employees aboard the FPSO were able to determine, even without opening up the machinery, that there was an issue with the mechanical seals of the FGC compressor whereby they were not sealing. It was also determined that the compressor unit would have to be sent for repairs at the workshop of the manufacturer, MAN Turbo in Germany, with an expected “detailed inspection” of the compressor.
Questioned whether the challenge experienced by the compressor is similar to that experienced last year, Ryan said: “What we do know is that the seal failed, what we don’t know is why it failed. There may be something else in the machine that we discover and that’s why we need to get the machine where the experts are and do a full assessment…the previous issue we had, it was the same machine, it was the third stage…we don’t know if there’s a connection at this time.”
Ryan said that ExxonMobil continues to keep the Government, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) informed about its operations and emissions. Routledge said: “We are not happy to be where we are. We’re just trying to find the right balance for Guyana that ensures that we’re still generating revenues for the country while minimizing the amount of impact. That’s the balance we’ve struck at the moment.”