Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : January 16th 2014 Contents JANUARY 2014 • WEEK THREE www.guardian.co.tt BUSINESS GUARDIAN
NEWS | BG9
The local arm of oil giant BP
offered to assist state-owned
Petrotrin and T&T in con-
taining and cleaning up the
massive oil spill that so badly
damaged the south west
coast of Trinidad, starting in December, but
the offer has not been accepted as yet.
There have been a total of 11 oil spills
over the past three weeks, adversely affecting
residents and the environment along the
southwestern peninsula. The company has
claimed that some of the spills were acts
In a response to questions from this news-
paper, the company said: "bpTT is part of
the mutual aid agreement mandated under
the Tier 2 Response Level of the National
Oil Spill Contingency Plan. BPTT has offi-
cially offered its assistance and has been in
discussions with Petrotrin and the Minister
of Energy and Energy Affairs and remains
available to share lessons learned and support
the response and remediation efforts in
south western Trinidad."
Asked whether bpTT was in a better posi-
tion to deal with oil spills following its huge
spill in April 2010 in the Gulf of Mexico,
the company said it had learnt the lessons
from the Macondo spill and had incorporated
those into its response capabilities.
"The lessons learned from incidents
occurring in other BP territories have been
embedded in crisis response planning and
preparedness at bpTT. These learnings have
led us to improve our training, testing and
response systems at bpTT to continue to
enhance our ability to respond effectively
in the event of a crisis" the company said.
According to the Ministry of Energy and
Energy Affairs, there are three levels of
response to oil spills. The first is a Tier 1
spill. This is where in-house response capa-
bility is adequate. Where the impacts are
low, an in-house clean-up response is man-
dated. Tier 1 is site-specific and includes
most shore-side industry with oil transfer
sites, offshore installations, pipelines and
all vessels from which a spill of oil is pos-
Tier 2 spills are small or medium-sized
spills where significant impacts are possible
and area or national support for adequate
spill response is required. Inter alia oil and
gas operators, oil and condensate-handling
and transport facilities and vessels owners
operating in T&T s Exclusive Economic Zone
(EEZ) must maintain in addition to a Tier
1 clean-up response capacity, a Tier 2
response capability by subscription to a
dedicated Tier 2 Oil Spill Response Organ-
isation (OSRO) resident in Trinidad and
Tobago to handle spills that cannot be han-
dled by in-house Tier 1 capabilities.
The Tier 2 OSRO must be able to respond
to a spill 24-hours a day, seven days a week
and must immediately mobilize upon noti-
fication of an oil spill.
Under Tier 2, the other operators including
bpTT, BHP Billiton, BG Group would have
had to use their considerable resources to
assist Petrotrin. But the Minister of Energy
bypassed this option and instead went to
Tier three which called for international
In its response BPTT said it has the capa-
bility to deal with oil spills of any size and
outside of what is called for in the National
Oil Spill Contingency Plan, it could have
quickly accessed resources and technical
expertise to help Petrotrin.
It wrote: "BPTT will utilise all local and
international available resources to respond
to spills of any size. BPTT has a clearly
defined oil spill response plan that is based
on the BP Group s crisis response plans.
"These plans are also aligned to the
Trinidad and Tobago National Oil Spill Con-
tingency plan (NOSCP) and would include
mobilisation of our local response teams,
mobilisation of support from other industry
operators and government agencies through
Tier 2 of the NOSCP.
"International resources would be
mobilised through the activation of Tier 3
of the NOSCP. Additionally beyond the
NOSCP, bpTT can quickly access BP Group
resources to mobilise experts, specialised
equipment and materials through BP s global
State owned Petrotrin has declined to say
why it did not accept help from bpTT, the
country s largest exploration and production
The Business Guardian has confirmed
that neither Petrotrin nor the Minister of
Energy has accepted the offer instead choos-
ing to escalate the response to Tier 3 and
therefore engaging foreign help in seeking
to deal with the spill in the south western
There was no response by Petrotrin up
to press time to an e-mail sent on January
10 to Petrotrin s corporate communications
manager Gillian Friday. In a follow-up tele-
phone conversation last Friday at 9:30 pm,
Friday promised to respond to the questions
but, to date, has failed to do so.
The questions were as follows:
1) Can Petrotrin say whether it was offered
help by bpTT in managing and cleaning up
the oil spill in south western Trinidad?
2) When was the offer made?
3) Why was the offer not accepted?
4) What is the cost to Petrotrin of bringing
in foreign assistance?
5) Whose idea was it to go to tier three?
What is Tier 3?
Tier 3 is defined by the National Oil Spill
Contingency Plan and not by Petrotrin nor
the Ministry. The plan is clear and it states:
"Tier 3 spills are normally large spills requir-
ing substantial resources and support from
regional or international oil spill co-oper-
atives to mitigate effects perceived to be
wide-reaching, ie, of national or international
"Oil and gas operators that are in the
business of oil and gas production and ship-
ping of crude oil shall be required to obtain
membership with a suitable Tier 3 oil spill
equipment cooperative that can mobilise
equipment into the country within at least
24 - 48 hours. The basis of operator plans
for handling Tier 3 spills shall be based on
the worst case discharge as defined in the
bpTT offers to
help with oil spill
...no word from Petrotrin
There is fear that even after the clean-up effort is
finished, more than two-thirds of the oil will remain in
the Gulf of Paria and could lead to long-term liabilities
for state-owned Petrotrin.
This as the company cannot account for close to two-
thirds of the bunker fuel oil that was spilled into the
Gulf of Paria.
Highly placed sources at Petrotrin and the Ministry
of Energy and Energy Affairs confirm that of the 7,500
barrels of bunker fuel oil that spilled into the Gulf of
Paria in December, only 2,700 barrels have been mopped
up as of January 14. This means that with most of the
heavy clean up complete, close to 4,700 barrels of bunker
fuel oil have not been recovered.
So concerned is the Ministry of Energy it has ordered
Petrotrin to look into the possibility that most of the
fuel was mixed with debris making it more heavy than
water and therefore sinking into the ocean.
A confidential report at the Ministry of Energy which
the Business Guardian has seen a copy of showed clearly
the samples which were collected from La Brea to
Granville for fingerprinting the spill showed no evidence
of crude oil in the water or on the beach. This essentially
means that even if allegations of sabotage by Petrotrin
and the Minister of Energy are true those acts did not
lead to the spill which the country is grappling with.
In a meeting with the National Security Council,
Petrotrin officials, including president Khalid Hassanali
and chairman Lindsay Gillette, said "specialist tools"
were used to start two of the leaks and claimed acts of
sabotage led to two of the 11 spills. The Petrotrin team
told the council it was found that two three-inch bull
plugs were removed from the Rancho Quemado well
and a 16-inch flange from Riser Platform Five at Point
Fortin was deliberately tampered with.
Petrotrin s internal investigation, which the company
is not now standing by, found "sheared," "broken" and
"unconnected" expansion joints and beams which failed
during the transmission of fuel from one oil tank to the
Marabella barge leading to the oil leak. It noted, however,
that the line in question "has not undergone a major
inspection in over 17 years."
The investigation found aerial surveys indicated at
one point the slick created from the spill exceeded 4,500
Sources close to the ongoing investigation confirm
there are separate departments involved in the transfer
of product from tanks to a vessel or barge. It is understood
that when the marine unit indicated they were not
receiving product on the barge, those pumping the fuel
felt the pressure may have been low and a second pump
was put on without checking to see if the problem was
a breakage with the line or even if the product was acci-
dently being pumped elsewhere. The Business Guardian
was told this was against standard operating procedure.
Sources close to the investigation say that is why so
many people have been suspended and the suspension
letters have addressed the failure to perform duty and
have nothing to do with any suggestion this was a wilful
act of sabotage.
1. Can you say whether there is concern that only 2,500
barrels of bunker fuel have so far been recovered with most
of the heavy clean up almost complete?
2. Is there concern that a large quantity of the bunker fuel
is actually now at the bottom of the ocean?
3. Is it true that the Ministry of Energy has asked
Petrotrin to investigate a significant part of the spill is now
below the Gulf?
4. Is it true that finger printing has shown no evidence of
anything but bunker fuel oil from La Brea to Granville?
5. Does that not say that even if there were 11 oil spills,
only the one at Pointe-a-Pierre was of any consequence?
6. Finally, is it true that 7,500 barrels of product could not
be accounted for?
4,700 barrels of
bunker fuel still
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