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Guyana’s environmental protection rules force out Nalco chemical warehouse possibly to Trinidad

A United States (US)-headquartered company that has been facing resistance in setting up a petrochemical bond to supply oil to ExxonMobil’s production operations offshore Guyana will be moving its operations to Trinidad, sources said.

Head of Guyana’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Dr. Vincent Adam’s told News-Talk Radio Guyana 103.1 FM/Demerara Waves Online News that Nalco Champion (Guyana) Inc. last week Friday officially informed him that the company has abandoned plans to set up a facility here.

He said Nalco informed him that “our conditions do not allow them to operate here in the short term” and that “they’re going to do their operations outside of Guyana”.

The EPA Chief expressed disappointment at Nalco’s decision. “The EPA bent over backwards with three conditions that are standard and reasonable to ensure the business stays here,” he said.

He explained that those steps had included the grant of an interim 12-month permit to use a location on Water Street near the Demerara River, collaboration with the Guyana Fire Service to respond, and institution of mitigation measures such as a concrete impermeable base for the tanks and a containment area. He expressed concern that Nalco had wanted to use sand bags instead. “They want to come and do stuff here that they can’t do in other countries,” he said.

Nalco had begun construction of its high-tech warehouse on land owned by John Fernandes Limited at Houston Gardens. However, the EPA and City Hall issued a cease order on works after residents objected.

But that is not going down too well with the investors and Nalco has since revived the idea of moving out of Guyana and setting up its base in Trinidad.

“The challenges to get permission to set up in Trinidad are less…it’s a lot faster than in Georgetown…Trinidad was always an option,” the source said. The source said if Nalco pulls out, at least eight Guyanese who received specialised training by Nalco might have to be laid off.

Repeated efforts to secure comments from John Fernandes Limited officials proved futile.

The residents of Houston Gardens back in July did not turn up for a consultation to which they had been invited.

Nalco has said it was not manufacturing any of the chemicals—methanol, xylene, asphaltene inhibitor and emulsion breaker—manufactured in Guyana but that they would be transported from Texas to Guyana where they would be filtered before taken offshore to the ships.

The company has said the warehouse would be used “strictly” as a warehouse and container transfer facility for storing products and equipment, repackaging chemicals into tanks, filtering chemicals as they are repackaged and transported to the supply vessels. The warehouse, according to Nalco, is not a manufacturing facility and there would be no massive storage tanks, buried chemical tanks, chemical reactions, vapour clouds or steam, flaring or flames, stack or vent fumes.