Update: Flaring by the CEPSA Oil Refinery on Sunday afternoon

 On Sunday columns of black smoke were belted out into the air during a leak, leading to numerous complaints from Spanish and Gibraltarian residents.

Today CEPSA commented , saying that the fumes were not a risk to employees or residents:

CEPSA STATEMENT: Today, due to an electrical failure, there has been an unexpected stoppage which has caused a punctual discharge of gases, causing high flares.

After alerting the local authorities, the Environment Department and the Neighbors Committee, Cepsa insists that these discharges are due to the safe operation of the plant’s safety systems, being compatible with strict security and environmental controls, and that, in no case, pose a risk to the population or employees.

The seven towers at the facilities of Cepsa in the region are an essential safety element to release pressure of the equipment in the processing units. These safety systems are specifically designed to burn the gas resulting from an unforeseen stoppage, start-up or power outage, avoiding its emission to the environment and regularizing the units. The whole process is controlled in a safe and environmentally effective way to reduce any emissions. This device is part of the normal operation of industrial installations.

Flaring is carried out as an emergency measure when there is a break in power supply. However flaring releases large volumes of toxic gases into the environment and must therefore be managed to last the shortest possible time. On Sunday it took close to 40 minutes before it finally petered out.

A technical audit carried out on this industry some years ago found that a number of measures were needed to contain and reduce levels of pollution. A key measure was the installation of onsite back-up power supply to keep emergency flaring to the shortest possible time given the impact this has on people and the environment throughout the Bay.

Gibraltarian MP Marlene Hassan-Nahon demanded that the government made an official complaint to Brussels, insisting that the issue be put at the top of the government’s agenda. “In this day and age it is outrageous to accept that such an environmental liability can remain unchecked,” she said.

The government of Gibraltar has responded saying that it will raise the topic with the EU Commission.


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