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Atyrau oil refinery fined $132 million for polluting environment; plant claims inspectors ignorant of flaring systems

07 march 2014, 16:27
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Illustration of Tengrinews.kz
Illustration of Tengrinews.kz
Atyrau oil refinery has been changed with a fine of nearly $132 million over environmental pollution, Tengrinews reports citing the press-service of the Ministry of Environment and Water Resources of Kazakhstan.

"The Ministry's Ecology Department for Atyrau Oblast filed a claim demanding that Atyrau Oil Refinery compensates the damages caused by discharge of polluting substances into the air and excessive flaring of sour gas. The damage caused to the environment is estimated at $132 million based on the rules of calculation of damages from pollution of the environment," the Ministry reports.

The violations were discovered when the Prosecutor's Office of Atyrau Oblast and experts from the Ecology Department for Atyrau Oblast made an unscheduled inspection of the plant’s compliance with the ecological regulations.

"The inspection was made from November 29 to December 28, 2013. It revealed that Atyrau Oil Refinery exceeded the permitted amounts of sour gas flaring through the system of the sulphur plant tail gas discharge. The excessively flared amount made 693,753.1 cubic meters," the message says.

The refinery disagrees with the Department's claims. "There was no excessive flaring made and none of it is being made now," the plant says.

"According to the rules of use of the flaring systems, heating or inert gases are supplied into the flare header in questions. None of these gases contain any hydrogen sulfide (flaring of the sulphur containing gas is limited by the environmental relations). Whereas all the sour gas (that does contain hydrogen sulphide) is channeled into production of liquid sulphur," Chief Engineer of Atyrau Oil Refinery Denis Kozyrev explains.

The Department's claims are base on the data recorded by the gas meter installed on the flaring system in question. The meter shows that 693,753.1 cubic meters of some gas was flared. But it does not show which gas it was, the plant says. According to the engineers, sour gas is redirected into the flaring system only in cases of emergency, but no such cases took place during the period in question.

"The meter is meant for control of the amount of flare header purge gas that passes through the system, it cannot be used to calculate flaring of sour gases.

The Atyrau plant has invited experts from Atyrau Institute of Oil and Gas, Institute of Petroleum Refining and Petrochemistry of Bashkyrtostan, Russia, Giprogazoochistka JSC (a leading Russian air ecology engineering company), Yokogawa Electric Kazakhstan Ltd and Kazakh Institute of Oil and Gas to make a new inspection and draw their statements. Besides, it has filed a request to ONHP JSC, an Omsk-based oil and gas engineering company that designed the refinery's flaring systems.

Atyrau Oil Refinery was created in 1945. It focuses on processing oil into fuels. It is 99.5 owned by KazMunaiGas Processing and Marketing, a subsidiary of state-run KazMunaiGas Kazakhstan national oil and gas company.

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