Equinor’s South Riding Point continues its oil spill clean-up exercise in East End, after Hurricane Dorian in early September, which resulted in the company losing “a portion” of 1.88 million barrels of product.
Dorian’s high winds and record level storm surge resulted in oil from the plant being spewed across the facility and surrounding areas.
In a statement posted on the company’s website, (www.equinor.com), Wednesday, October 9, officials shared an update on the clean-up progress.
Following is the statement in its entirety. “The initial estimated volume of the oil spill at the South Riding Point terminal after the impact of Hurricane Dorian is 119,000 barrels or around 6 peerrcent of the total 1.88 million barrels stored. Around 30 perrcent of this has already been recovered and the clean-up continues with full strength.
“Most of the spilled volumes are within or near the terminal area. More of the oil will be recovered over the coming weeks as work progresses to empty containment berms surrounding the tanks.
“Equinor is committed to cleaning up. Plans for how to address the outside area are being matured and executed in close dialogue with the Bahamian government.
“The calculation of oil spilled versus oil recovered will likely never fully match. This is due to the evaporation of oil and other natural processes.
“Significant personnel and other resources from The Bahamas as well as international specialists continue to be engaged in the recovery efforts. The work is carried out with focus on safety for all workers and under strict Health and Safety Executive (HSE) guidelines.
“Equinor continues to survey the facility and surrounding area, both from the air and ground. The company has not observed any leakage of oil from the terminal to the sea.”
Appreciating the need to relay to the public factual information on what transpired at the facility as a result of the relentless storm, local media partners were invited to tour the facility on Friday, September 27, where officials acknowledged the spill and were committed to its clean-up in a safe and timely manner.
According to Kevin Stuart, Equinor’s South Riding Point (SRP) Terminal Manager, “There were myths circulating that we were not reporting or getting the word out; I must admit that we are a company that is very private.
“A lot of you in the media would know that, there are a number of donations that we do in this community, that we just do not publicize; that is something that we struggle back and forth with because our community is one that wants to know. I know for us as a company a few weeks ago, it was signed off for us to donate $500,000 to the local Rotary and we did $500,000 to the local Red Cross.
“However, in the same way, we saw the need to talk to the media today, to lay out the facts, that we will get it right. It was something that happened, and we are going to clean it up.”
Nick Benson, Deputy Incident Commander, Oil Spill Clean Up at the Equinor site added, “This area reports to the Pelican Command Port, where Kevin Stuart is our Incident Commander. We utilize the Incident Command system to manage our response to our unified efforts. We have a saying on this site, which says, ‘We are one team; one fight.’ Every single day when we start our meetings we start off with that.
“Safety is our first and foremost priority on this site here, as you can see as you drive through the site there are a lot operations going on. As of today, we have over 250 responders actively recovering soil, and product on the ground. You will see less and less of the floating bulk oil on the ground because we have vacuum trucks that are actually going out there and recovering it.”
While seven affected birds have been spotted since the spill, officials confirmed that only two have been captured and are being treated.
“We have our Wildlife Response trailer on site. We were able to capture two birds which we are in the process of decontaminating, and most importantly rehabilitating. In the area, we have what are called skimming systems, one of the skimmers that was on site during the storm was actually found, our crews on the ground were able to repair it and it is actually recovering product as we speak; that is a big win for our community here.
“We have a lot of people, from around the world on this site, our process and main goal is safety, that is number one; safety inside the terminal, safety outside of the terminal and safety with our responders.
“Our air-monitoring group is very, very important for us. We continue to work operations around the terminal, we are not going to stop until we get that soil, that product, until we are able to capture it and return it, and dispose of it, as per our waste management plan.
He continued, “We have over 475 spill response experts on the leadership team here on the ground now; that is a fascinating thing. We harp on competence; we harp on training and it is here, with Kevin and the Incident Management team at Pelican. We receive clear direction for our objectives; from those objectives we can take and create strategies and tactics on how to remove the product safely from the environment.”
“Within our Environmental Unit, our operating base, we have teams called SCAT (Shoreline, Cleanup, Assessment Teams). That is a technique from the response industry, where the specialists, scientists, biologists, that understand both aquatic and inland environments, as well as the vegetation. They go out, and they understand what the contamination is and then determine how we are able to treat it. They are a group that we have brought in, from multiple parts of the world, and they are going to instruct operations, which myself and Jeffery Bridgewater (Emergency Response Branch Director) are running down here, on what we need to do, to treat that area.
“What we want to do is to treat it, in combination with Mother Nature at the same time. We want to be less invasive with that area so that we do not damage or hurt anything else,” informed Benson.
The independent companies hired to assist in the clean-up and assessments according to Benson, are Polaris and Oil Spill Response Limited.
Questioned if there is a timeline set for the immediate clean-up effort, Stuart acknowledged, “From a timeline perspective, the free-standing oil timeline is the priority. We still have puddles throughout the forest, and I expect that that will be done in another two weeks, for that part to be completed, then we will go into the other stage and that will be focusing on the inside of the tanks and to further our ground water (assessments). That is the best that I can say right now, but we are taking it as we go.”