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Sulphur rain onto your heads

December 5 2012, 22:12

Another environmental scandal around Kashagan has been revealed to the public attention. According to the statement of Atyrau Department of Ecology, during the operation of A and D offshore blocks at Kashagan and Bolashak onshore processing facility (OPF) at Karabatan, the volumes of harmful emissions will be several times higher than those specified in Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). For example, total emissions during OPF operation in 2013 will be 78,000 tons a year, but not 2,000 tons expected earlier.

- "At the time Agip held public hearings," says Erbol Kuanov, the Atyrau Oblast Ecology Department Director. – In the EAI for Bolashak onshore processing facility approved by the Ministry of Environmental Protection on May 16, 2005, it was specified that the max gross emissions during the 1st phase operations will amount to 2,277 tons per year, in the 2nd – 8,632 tons and in the 3rd - 15,470 tons per year. However, the latest submitted project for max permissible emissions specifies that total emissions from OPF for 2013 only, will amount to 78,279 tons.

The Department of Ecology issued negative resolutions for both projects: Bolashak OPF and A and D offshore blocks.
- “Once we issued a negative resolution, NCOC and Agip representatives, along with technologists and ecologists came to our office, about 30 people. I asked where did they take the figure 78,000 from? It turned out they changed the main technical design documentation. In this case, the law requires them to repeat public hearings,” - says Kuanov.

WKT Reference: SO2 is a highly toxic gas. Symptoms of sulphur dioxide poisoning include a runny nose, coughing, hoarseness of voice, severe sore throat and distinctive taste in the mouth. Inhaling of higher concentration sulphur dioxide causes asphixia, speech disorder, difficulty in swallowing, vomiting and possible acute pulmonary edema. Due to accumulation in large quantities as waste, sulphur dioxide is one of the main gases polluting the atmosphere. The biggest danger is in the pollution by sulphur compounds released into the atmosphere during burning of coal, oil and natural gas. The end product of the reaction in the atmosphere is sulphuric acid aerosols in the air, the solution in rainwater (in the clouds).  As the result of precipitation, it acidifies the soil (acid rains) causing complications to those with respiratory problems and has a depressing effect on human health. The sulphuric acid aerosol effect caused by flares is often noted during low clouds and high humidity of air. Plants near such facilities are usually covered with small necrotic spots formed due to sediments of sulphuric acid drops, which prove its presence in the environment in significant quantities.

- “I said they are going to poison the people. If you start emitting this volume at Bolashak, we all have to run from here. If you stated you will be discharging 2,000 tons a year in 1 stage, you have to emit no more than 2,000 tons. An Italian Agip rep said I am requiring a fantastic thing! My answer was: what you said at the public hearing in 2005 was also a fiction!
Excess emissions in the offshore and onshore facilities are, basically, linked to flaring. NCOC, for example, got approval for technically unavoidable 287mln m3 of gas flaring in 2013. The volume of gas flaring at offshore facility was 154mln m3. But then after the introduction of changes into the Law “On Subsoil and Subsoil Use”, under which any flaring of associated or natural gas is now prohibited, except for emergency cases when there is a threat to the lives or health of personnel.
Our Department studied the documents submitted by NCOC and learnt that in 2013 the three most significant causes for discharging gas to flares are as follows: constant seal gas leaks from compressor stations, constant discharging of sour gas from safety valves and periodic discharges of volley sour gas due to technological failures. 
But the burning of gas in these three scenarios is not classified as technologically inevitable (this category includes only short-term gas flaring during commissioning, repairs, etc.) and, accordingly, can not be normalized.
However, MPE project (maximum permissible emissions) shows that emission norms for 2013 have been calculated based on gas flaring of 130.8 mln m3, which amounts to 84.6% of the total volume of gas flaring on onshore facility (the rest 15%  are emergency situations).
Therefore, the Department of ecology concluded that the customer and the project developer should review the norms of emissions, as well as exclude the volumes of flared gas during the above three scenarios.
Erbol KuanovIt is estimated that the total amount of emissions generated as the result of flaring of 130 mln m3 of gas will amount to 61,000 tons (and highly toxic SO2 or sulphur dioxide constitutes 94% or 57,391 tons). This is the main danger.
At the time, Agip got the permit for gas flaring from the Ministry of Oil and Gas. However, recently, the RoK Ecology Committee based on the letter of the Ecology Department of Atyrau Oblast raised the issue of recalling the permit for gas flaring. Paolo Scaroni, Eni CEO will be arriving to Atyrau in order to “shade down” the situation with the ecologists. 
- “During prime minister’ s visit, the consortium management assured that Kashagan is ready,” - said Kuanov. “In fact, the environmental part of the project is an absolute mess. Three negative conclusions issued by our Department are the proof of that. In addition, sections for sulfur pads also have not been approved due to project amendments. Generally speaking, Agip has a habit of introducing changes to the approved projects, as if it’s “in their blood”. They do whatever they want. I understand that I am touching a dangerous issue, because it has been already announced that in March or April we need to get the first oil. But I was born here and I cannot allow the disaster to happen."
by Saule Tasboulatova
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