T&T seeking foreign help with blow-out of abandoned oil well

(Trinidad Guardian) The Ministry of Energy is now seeking foreign assistance to cap off a well which is spewing high pressures of oil and gas, 40 feet from the seabed in the Gulf of Paria, near the Couva oil platform.

Located approximately 4.5 nautical miles off Orange Valley, Carapichaima, the well has been shooting extensive hydrocarbons in the Gulf since Thursday, posing serious risk to marine operators.

In a letter sent to Petrotrin hours after the blow-out occurred, the Ministry of Energy requested immediate assistance to cap off the well. Divers were sent down to inspect the blow-out and realized that it was coming from the seabed.

Petrotrin personnel did not have the technological ability to cap off the well and later alerted the ministry.

A source who requested anonymity said the ministry has been seeking assistance from service companies in the United States with the technology to cap the well.

A log of the well is expected to be provided to the company before any work is done.

“We expect that a drilling barge will be sent in to side track onto the casing and pump cement inside to kill the well. It all depends on the recommendations they make after they view the well file. We are hoping that the Ministry of Energy has a log of this well. From what we are seeing, the well has already been abandoned and was capped off from the seabed,” a source said.

Contacted yesterday, chairman of the EMA Nadra Nathai-Gyan said “The EMA is aware of this and we are part of the team that is monitoring the progress of the well. We are attending all the sessions and we are there on a first-hand basis to see what can be done.

“It is a difficult situation and the ministry has asked for international help. A meeting was held yesterday and a report is expected as they try to bring the situation under control.”

Fishermen have been staying away from the vicinity of the spillage and are praying that their boats and nets do not become contaminated.

Put up warning signs—Aboud

Secretary of Fishermen and Friends of the Sea Gary Aboud called on mariners to steer clear of the site as it was volatile and highly flammable.

Aboud said the area was unlit and there were no navigational warnings for oncoming vessels.

“Vessels are warned to stay upwind of this gas plume which may ignite or explode and is highly noxious,” Aboud said. He said a team from FFSO visited yesterday.

“We have video footage showing that this is an extremely dangerous and highly pressurized well rupture, spewing a gaseous aromatic hydrocarbon mixed with a muddy substance. This gaseous sludge is covering the sea for miles.”

He said “six days after this orphaned offshore oil/gas platform erupted the Ministry of Energy stated that they are still trying to access which private company was in charge of that well before the ministry took it over.”

Aboud questioned whether the ministry has been keeping a proper records of wells.

“Is the ministry incapable of responding to an emergency situation like this? Do we have the capacity to ensure public safety from the oil and gas sector? Who is the responsible party?

Nothing has been done all week. When will this public endangerment be contained?” Aboud asked.

He said there are hundreds of decades old, capped, orphaned or abandoned wells which may not have been properly decommissioned and are corroding.

“Where are the maintenance schedules for abandoned platforms or capped wells? When was the last time the Ministry of Energy did a safety inspection of the hundreds of abandoned wells in our maritime waters and onshore sites?” he asked.

He also questioned why there have been no warnings to protect fishermen.

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