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Oil spill contingency plan update after 36 years

By Renuka Singh

Amendments to a 36-year-old oil spill contingency plan could see the use of radar and satellite equipment to ensure oil spills do not damage the oceans around Trinidad and Tobago.

Minister of Energy Kevin Ramnarine announced the improvements at the post-Cabinet press briefing at the Office of the Prime Minister, St Clair yesterday. The original plan dates back to 1977, Ramnarine said.

"So it's the first time we have updated our National Oil Spill Contingency Plan in 36 years and this of course is timely because as you know we have six deepwater blocks under a production sharing contract," he said.

He said given the contractual commitments of the multinational energy companies interested in those blocks, there would be an expected increase in offshore drilling activity. He said the old plan was devised to mitigate oil spills on land and in the marine environment.

"That was 1977 but since 1977 the oil and gas industry has greatly expanded and there are a lot more areas that have opened up today for hydrocarbon exploration," he said.

The new technology adds radar and satellite monitoring to oil and gas activity.

"The newly approved plan abolishes the area control system where the marine area was divided into five areas, now in its place the plan speaks to establishment by petroleum operators of what they call a tier two response organisation to coordinate responses, when the responsible party cannot handle the spill," he said.

He said this new monitoring system would not cost the State as the multinational energy companies had volunteered their technology to assist.

"The would have access to things like satellite technology and radar and so on. The companies have voluntarily agreed that they will come together to form an organisation to respond to oil spills. Petrotrin is included in that too," he said.

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