Sea levels in the southwestern part of Trinidad are expected to rise according to studies conducted by Petrotrin which could negatively impact their activities and surrounding areas. "Sea level rise would affect all low lying areas. Some areas would become permanently submerged. In this study, we refer to it as inundation. Petrotrin has significant assets in the coastal areas and our refinery is a main economic activity," said Garret Manwaring, health safety and environment (HSE) manager at Petrotrin. Manwaring was speaking on the Results of the Vulnerability Assessment Study that was conducted by Petrotrin in the Vessigny area at the health, safety, security and environment (HSSE) conference two Tuesdays ago at the Hyatt Trinidad Regency hotel, Port-of-Spain.
He said Petrotrin conducted the vulnerability assessment between 2004 and 2007. The three major areas studied were the Oropouche field, Pointe-a-Pierre, and Vessigny and Point Fortin areas. The studies were conducted in two phases, one in which data was collected. "For this study, we looked at all data that existed. We projected two scenario using two models. The Canadian model, we looked at the worst case scenario, and the British model was viewed as very conservative," he said. He noted this area of Trinidad is very important to the economic life of the country. "So as those areas become submerged, we will lose a lot of assets and it will require relocation for a lot of activities," he said. Manwaring said these studies are important to help them determine what should be done to protect a country's assets. "We do want to know if the prediction of the model is likely to happen and what we need to do to protect our assets. The coastline along the whole west coast is considered to be very significant in terms of ecological and socio-economic systems. "We have the Caroni Swamp. We have the Oropouche Swamp within our studying area. We have a lot of recreational beaches. There is a lot of high density settlements along this area. We have a lot of industrial activity in places like Point Lisas," he said.
Manwaring said a number of scenarios were offered in the report and that Petrotrin looked at the worst case. "Between the conservative and worst case scenario, one is just 50 per cent less in terms of what the sea level rise is going to be. For sea level rise, the estimate here for 2031 increased by 9.8 centimetres compared to 17.2 cm," he said. From the study, Manwaring raised the question of what will be the areas in 2031 that will become inundated and be permanently under water. "The total land loss that is expected is to be 4.69 hectares based on the findings of the study. We then added the effects of erosion on the coastline. Some areas have been affected by erosion for the past ten years and it is expected to get worst," he said. The scenario for 2051 looks grim, Manwaring said.
"The worst case scenario is for 2051, and this is about erosion along the coastline. By 2051, it is expected that it will be covered by a minimum storm surge of two metres. The year 2071 is pretty much the same. However, the size increase to 600 hectares."
Manwaring said Petrotrin is presently ensuring that it takes the necessary steps to reduce emissions. "In Pointe-a-Pierre, we have been upgrading our refinery and here we have been reviewing our contribution on how we can reduce climate change and reduction of greenhouse gas. So we are putting more efficient processes and systems to reduce the quantity of gases that we emit, which is taking place at Pointe-a-Pierre. "We are going to reduce greenhouse gas emissions across all our operating areas. And we have a number of projects ongoing and some have been completed and there will be new projects in the pipeline in the next two to three years. "In the Soldado field, we have just completed a diametric survey. We have also just completed a geographic model for our fields, so there is a very good understanding of the current systems.
Manwaring said it is not only T&T that should be concerned with global warming, but also the rest of the world. "We have global warming and melting ice caps. That is the fundamental thing that we are concerned with in climate change. That melting ice cap is expected to contribute to rise in the sea level around the world and for us as an island. We're looking here at a major global challenge."
Manwaring said the findings of local studies should be made available to all the stakeholders in the surrounding communities and should be studied by universities and other institutions. "The model is only as good as the data we put into it, so we need to put more data. We need to be monitoring and acquiring more data and to analyse and come up with a management plan for the entire area."