ExxonMobil says it could not use spare parts to prevent flaring

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…assures that producing 130,000pbd did not cause compressor failure

ExxonMobil Guyana has explained that it could not use spare parts aboard the Liza Destiny FPSO to repair the malfunctioned flash gas compressor because the issue experienced was more complex requiring the manufacturer’s assistance.

The Company’s explanation comes after Former Environment and Protection Agency (EPA) Head, Dr. Vincent Adams hammered the multi-billion-dollar oil company for failing to utilize spare parts to fix the issue that has led to the flaring of some 16 million cubic feet of gas daily offshore Guyana.

Dr. Adams said on Wednesday: “It’s clear again in the permit that you have to have spare parts available. They come up with these silly excuses and, again, they’re insulting our intelligence [saying] ‘it’s impossible for us to have spare parts for everything’ but that’s silly because they know that you can’t have spare parts for every single thing on the ship but any competent engineer would say this compressor has been giving me problems. Guess where I’m going to want to have some spare parts?”

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There are questions about whether the challenge experienced by FGC compressor in 2021 is linked to the challenges experienced in 2020, which also led to high amounts of flaring offshore Guyana.

However, in an update on Wednesday, ExxonMobil Guyana assured that it was impossible for the Company to utilize spare parts to fix the issue.

“We do keep spare equipment in Guyana to support maintenance activities, including the seals for the flash gas compressor which had failed at the end of last month and spare rotors. However, our initial examination determined that the necessary repairs required equipment and expertise at the manufacturer’s workshop in Germany. Last year, we ordered a new spare flash gas compressor, but it will not be available until later this year due to the complex nature of the equipment,” the Company stated.

The third stage FGC compressor – where the problem lies — is being repaired and upgraded by technical experts at the MAN Energy Solutions workshop in Germany.

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.

It has now been determined that axial vibration of the compressor rotor was the initiating cause of the technical issue experienced on January 27.  The resulting vibration within the compressor was the cause of the mechanical seal failure initially reported.

While Dr. Adams has also accused ExxonMobil of violating its production permit by producing 130,000 barrels per day as opposed to a 120,000 per day capacity, the oil and gas company defended this move.

“MAN Energy [the manufacturer] has confirmed there is no linkage between the production optimization activities and the technical issues with the flash gas compressor.  At the time of the incident with the compressor, it was only operating at ~70 per cent of its design capacity. Production optimization is a normal process for operations around the world. A comprehensive safety evaluation took place prior to the optimization process,” ExxonMobil Guyana stated.

The Company further assured that it complies with the conditions of the Liza Phase One environmental permit as all other laws and regulations related to its operations.

It stated that while it is true that the permit prohibits routine flaring, it also specifies that flaring related to FPSO start-up, emergencies, process events, or maintenance activities are not considered routine.

The Company said: “We are disappointed at the issues we have encountered with the flash gas compressor that led to flaring more than we had planned…ExxonMobil Guyana maintains a high level of safety, which is a core value at all of our operations and facilities. As the teams work to complete repairs as quickly as possible, we continue to safely manage production and flare levels on the Liza Destiny FPSO.”

Meanwhile, Dr. Adams has urged Guyana’s political leaders to put aside their political differences and unite on the issue of oil and gas, just as they do when it comes to the Guyana/Venezuela controversy.

He said that if such matters of the protection of Guyana’s environment are not addressed in the early stages, when multiple FPSOs are offshore Guyana, it will pose a much greater challenge for the Government to manage offshore operations and prevent dangerous activities such as flaring.



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