Caltex and Engen on Mechanisms to Ensure Clean Air: briefings


23 August 2006
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Meeting Summary

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Meeting report

23 August 2005

Acting Chairperson: Mr D Olifant (ANC)

Documents handed out:
Engen PowerPoint presentation
Caltex PowerPoint presentation

Engen and Caltex briefed the Committee on their refinery operations. The presentations focused on the reduction of Sulphur Dioxide (SO2) and other emissions, the lack of engagement between the refineries and their various stakeholders and the impact of legislation on refining activities.

Members raised the issues of misinformed public perceptions about refineries, emission monitoring activities and policy implications.


Engen briefing
Mr W Hartmann (Engen Refinery: General Manager) presented on Engen’s responsibility regarding emissions, the lack of constructive engagement with stakeholders, and the public perception of Engen as an irresponsible polluter. This perception was not based on scientific evidence and more interaction was needed between the company, government, the community and Non-governmental Organisations (NGOs).

Mr Hartmann gave a progress report on SO2 emission reductions to date. There had been progress but there was more work needed to meet World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines. Engen had achieved a 60% reduction in SO2 emissions but substantial capital investment was needed to implement the next phase.

He continued that Engen needed time to conform to the latest set of regulations. Short-term and medium-term options included the implementation of tighter operational controls over SO2 recovery units. Long-term options included improvement of SO2 recovery unit efficiency by installing new technology.

The use of flares to burn excess stock was not a health issue. Certain Engen activities were necessary for the safety of the refinery staff. Tight operational controls were in place and the best available technology was in use. The Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) emission reductions had been substantial, but further improvement was needed.

Mr Hartmann raised concerns about the new permit application process as the Environmental Impact Assessment method was too cumbersome. He called on government to base its policy decisions on scientific facts and to offer Engen more time to conform to regulations in future.

Caltex briefing
Mr S Woodruff (Caltex Refinery General Manager) showed that Caltex had invested R450 million in environmental improvement measures since 1996. SO2 emissions had been reduced by 79%. Particulate matter emissions had been reduced by 80%.

Mr S Woodruff outlined Caltex’s major investments for 2005. These included a water recycling project to purify drinking water for 6 000 households, a cleaner fuels project to produce lower sulphur diesel in line with regulations, and a community involvement scheme to implement fenceline monitoring of VOC emissions. The total investment amount was R230 million, with a breakdown of R30 million for the Water Recycling project and R200 million for the cleaner fuels project.

The presenter affirmed Caltex’s desire to conform to the National Environment Management: Air Quality Act and to develop working relationships with stakeholders.

Mr D Olifant (ANC) could not recall any pressure from government for Engen to reduce emissions in the past and said that government did not have a set attitude to engagement with the various corporations.

Mr P Gerber (ANC) asked how Engen’s S02 emission level compared to that of Mossgas. Mr Hartmann replied that Engen’s emission levels were lower than Mossgas.

Ms J Chalmers (ANC) asked if spills from faulty fuel lines were a problem. Mr Hartmann replied that there was a recent spill but that Engen was not at fault. The main issue was control/access to the fuel lines rather than poor maintenance, as fuel lines had been tampered with in the past.

Ms J Chalmers (ANC) asked if Engen regarded the new SO2 guidelines as non-compliable, and questioned how Engen would achieve compliance in the future. Mr Hartmann replied that the guidelines were feasible but that the geographical location of the refinery had hampered their efforts.

Ms Chalmers asked if there was a trade-off between the recent high oil prices and environmental concerns. Mr Hartmann replied that the recent oil price hikes were unsustainable, and that they should not alter future investment programmes in cleaner technology.

Mr L Greyling (ID) asked if Engen regarded the recent National Environment Management: Air Quality Act as justified. Mr Hartmann responded that the real problem was a lack of trust between the refineries and the NGOs, communities and other stakeholders. The permit system was justified and municipalities needed to engage with each other to improve results.

Mr J Arendse (ANC) asked how Malaysia compared to South Africa in terms of emission regulations. Mr Hartmann replied that South African regulations were stricter than their Malaysian counterparts.

Mr Arendse asked if emission levels spiked when the refineries started up after being offline. Mr W Hartmann confirmed that there are emission spikes when the refinery is started up and that steps would be taken to compensate for this effect.

Ms M Ntuli (ANC) asked why Engen regarded the public to be misinformed about the refinery’s operations and its impact on the environment. Mr W Hartmann responded that the media did not take the scientific facts into account but instead raised emotive issues that had no factual support. Engen had a liaison forum to engage the community in discussion and conflict resolution but that this wasn’t always an effective mechanism.

Mr M Kalako (ANC) asked if it would be feasible to relocate either the refinery or the surrounding community. Mr Hartmann responded that relocation would be economically unfeasible and unpractical for both parties.

Mr L Greyling (ID) asked if the Caltex refineries fence line monitoring system was operational. Mr Woodruff replied that the monitors were indeed operational.

Mr L Greyling (ID) asked if the Caltex refinery was prone to Brent Crude discharges (known as ‘black rain’). Mr Woodruff responded that the recent discharge was a once-off event and that the refinery was doing its utmost to prevent future incidents.

Ms Zikalala (IFP) did not think Caltex was doing enough to help the surrounding communities and requested that the committee conduct a return visit to the refinery. Mr D Olifant (ANC) said that there would be another visit in the near future.

Ms J Chalmers (ANC) asked what Caltex did with the excess SO2 recovered from the production process. Mr S Woodruff responded that the recovered SO2 was used in the production of aspirin tablets and fertilisers.

Ms J Chalmers (ANC) said that Caltex had taken out a full-page advertisement outlining its reform promises, and she asked whether Caltex had delivered on these promises. Mr S Woodruff replied that the advertisement had promised a 90% reduction in SO2 emissions and that the refinery had achieved an 80% reduction in emissions thus far.

Dr I Cachalia (ANC) said that a fuel truck had recently been involved in a collision and that a spill had occurred. He asked what measures were in place to prevent such future incidents. Mr Woodruff replied that there were hypothetical drill procedures in place. A response teams was on call to deal with spills.

Mr A Mokoena (ANC) asked what impact recent legislation had had on Caltex operations. Mr Woodruff responded that legislation had not been updated for years before the introduction of the NEMA Air Quality Act and that the legislation had affected Caltex’s operations.

Mr M Moss (ANC) asked if there was any alignment between First World and Third World emission regulations. Mr Woodruff replied that the SO2 regulations were aligned but that VOC standards needed more attention in the Third World.

The meeting was adjourned.


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