Probe ordered into delivery of tainted fuel to GPL in Essequibo

Even as the Guyana Power and Light (GPL) revealed yesterday that it was working to ascertain the extent and type of contamination of fuel delivered to its Essequibo location, President Bharrat Jagdeo said he had had asked for a full investigation.

Contaminated fuel delivered to the Anna Regina power station had caused extensive power outages on the Essequibo Coast for four days earlier this month.
The President made the comment while speaking at a press conference at the Office of the President yesterday.

From January 10 to 14, extensive power outages were experienced by all consumers on the Essequibo Coast. The Guyana Power and Light (GPL) Inc had said in a press release at the time that the outages resulted from “a batch of fuel that was received at the Anna Regina Power Station over the weekend being contaminated.”

GPL had said that engineers at the power station discovered that some mechanical problems had developed on the two Wartsila units as a result of the contaminated fuel and it had flown in a high level technical team and spare parts to the station to effect immediate repairs to the engines. The company had said that it was working along with the shipper responsible for the movement of the fuel from Demerara to Essequibo to ascertain the circumstances surrounding its contamination.

In a statement yesterday, “to place in context the events” that had occurred at the Anna Regina power station since January 9, GPL said that 4,000 barrels of heavy fuel oil were dispatched in two equal shipments to the station, one on January 9 and the other on January 14. It said that both shipments arrived at the plant contaminated with water and “some foreign solid matter”.

The statement said samples have been dispatched to Trinidad for testing to ascertain the extent and type of contamination, asserting that testing facilities available locally are limited in their capability, as for example, they cannot determine sodium content. It noted that it had issued a press release explaining what had happened.

The power company declared that both shipments of fuel have been returned to Georgetown and are currently aboard the MT New Horizon. “We expect by tomorrow [today] to receive the results from Trinidad which will allow some understanding of what may have happened to cause the contamination and of course how the fuel can be processed to be retrieved,” the statement said.

BK International had been responsible for shipping the fuel and in a letter to the newspapers responding to a Kaieteur News article, the company accused the newspaper of seeking to convey the “false impression” that it was responsible for the contamination of fuel delivered by its vessel to GPL’s Essequibo power station.

BK’s Office Manager Egan Bazilio said in the letter that as a result of the meeting held with the GPL management last week Monday, it was agreed that a series of tests would be conducted on the fuel.

He declared that it was premature to speculate on the matters in the absence of results. “Suffice it to say that the precise amount of fuel uplifted from GPL was delivered and at all times GPL security was aboard the vessel securing the product. It is also clear that any possible contamination could have been in the fuel at the time it was uplifted because no tests were done at the time the product was uplifted,” he stated in his letter.

The letter said further that the fuel supplies were also handled by a third party in Essequibo who uplifted the fuel from the vessel for onward delivery to GPL’s plant.

Samples from the GPL tank and BK’s vessel were sent to Macorp for testing and both samples were confirmed to be the same, Bazilio said in his letter. He said the company was sending samples to the University of Guyana laboratory for further testing to confirm the percentage of water in the fuel while awaiting the results from the samples sent to Trinidad.

He said too that the company rejected allegations in the Kaieteur News article and restated its commitment to cooperate with GPL to get to the bottom of the matter. “BK is convinced that based upon the pre-loading exercises conducted by BK and GPL and the security precautions involved, in no way can it be held responsible for the so-called contamination, particularly in the absence of definitive tests and a completed investigation into all the circumstances surrounding the issues,” his letter stated.

GPL also referred to the news report yesterday noting that the Saturday headline in Kaieteur News had said that GPL had lost $40M in fuel and in an editorial the following day had questioned who was going to pay for it.

The power company said that all understood the “correlation between sensational headlines and newspaper sales and too often the absence of journalistic integrity from this equation.” It added that the Kaieteur News’s editorial of January 25 reflected the quality of journalism that had become the norm.

It said that in paragraph seven the editorial stated that 75,000 tons of fuel was in each shipment and in paragraph ten it stated that the total volume was said to be 150,000 gallons. “150,000 tons of heavy fuel oil is 975,000 barrels while 150,000 US gallons (our assumption) is 3.571 barrels. Of course, if you can’t get this right then it is possible to understand why the bold headline in Saturday’s edition ended up informing the Sunday editorial without the facts being checked by GPL,” the release declared.

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