Trinidad & Tobago fights series of oil spills

Vessels deployed to fight oil spill27 December 2013 – Officials in Trinidad & Tobago continue to respond to a mysterious series of oil spills that has soiled beaches and killed wildlife across the island nation.

The spills started last week with the discovery of a weld leak on the Number 10 Sea Line at state-owned Petrotrin’s Pointe-a-Pierre port. Shortly thereafter, authorities discovered that a gasket on a 16-inch line of Riser Platform 5 in Trinmar’s main field had leaked and spilled into the sea.

Later that week an oil leak was discovered in the area of Platform 17 in Petrotrin’s Trinmar East field. On Saturday, Trinity Oil & Gas reported that several valves had been opened on wellsite tanks at the WD-2 Block in Rancho Quemado. In total, five separate spills from government-owned facilities have been identified, according to reports.

Oil has been found on beaches in the La Brea area in the south-west of Trinidad and fisherman there have reported effects on their operations from the spill.

Officials say the spill is under control and that efforts have shifted towards determining the cause. No estimates on the volume of the spilt oil were available.

Local media reported that more than two dozen people had been hospitalised with nausea and headaches from the oil. Authorities have blocked off access to beaches to keep the public away from affected sites.

The Ministry of Energy and Petrotrin said they have not determined the source of the spill. Petrotrin president Khalid Hassanali has suggested the spills may be a result of “sabotage”, according to reports, and that the government was beefing up security at oil platforms.

However, the Oilfield Workers Trade Union (OWTU) says Petrotrin is solely to blame.

“We do not concur with the company’s offering of the excuse that it is some kind of sabotage or otherwise,” the Trinidad Guardian quoted OWTU president general Ancel Roget as telling a news conference on Sunday.

He went on to accuse Petrotrin of “a massive cover-up” on the spill and of lax security and safety measures aboard the affected platforms.

Petrotrin has launched a Tier-3 response effort – the most urgent level – and hired US-based Oil Spill Response Ltd to help with clean-up operations. OSRL was due to start work this week.

The move came after Petrotrin admitted its capability to handle the oil spill had “become significantly strained”.

The Institute of Marine Affairs has begun “fingerprinting” and trying to identify the spilt oil to determine the source, Petrotrin said.

“Our strategic priorities are the health, safety and security of residents and responders, identifying the source of the spill, its containment and clean-up and continued surveillance and monitoring of the affected areas,” the Energy Ministry said in a statement.
*Luke Johnson & news reports

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