Future Fuel Depot Sparks Concern

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By Charles Tjatindi

WALVIS BAY

The community of Walvis Bay’s Narraville suburb has until next Tuesday to submit possible objections or recommendations on the envisaged bulk storage facility planned for the harbour town.

The deadline was passed at a consultative meeting with various stakeholders involved in the project, including officials from Namibia Petroleum Corporation (Namcor).

Since the ideal location for the proposed development sets it right at the doorstep of the Narraville suburb, the community has raised concerns about possible pollution risks. Concomitant with the developments are potential spills, vapour emissions and fires, which have the community worried.

Environmental experts are however of the opinion that such risks would be limited if not completely non-existent. Pierre Botha of Geo Pollution Technologies, who spoke at the consultative meeting, noted the projects would pose limited environmental and social risks.

He said the envisaged facility would be safer than other commercial fuel installations in the world, contribute to the economy and diversify economic activity within the enclave.

“All the identified environmental risks can be managed and minimized through the implementation of preventative measures and a sound management system,” he said.

The Municipality of Walvis Bay initially proposed three different sites for the development project. A site on a portion of Farm Wanderdunen No. 23 just south of the Narraville suburb was considered ideal.

An environmental impact assessment (EIA), guided by the Namibian Constitution and an environmental assessment policy, among others, was commissioned on the proposed site. The EIA sought to identify potential environmental impact and to provide associated mitigation measures.

Walvis Bay’s economy stands to benefit from the establishment of the proposed bulk fuel storage facility, whose overall capital investment is estimated at close to N$800 million.

The facility promises to create about 46 jobs, which is estimated to provide a livelihood for at least 230 people.

The project was initiated to provide security of fuel supply and avert risks associated with volatile international supplies. The facility is designed to receive bulk shipments of gasoline, kerosene and heavy fuel oil from ships via a pipeline network from the existing tanker jetty.

Booster pumps and buffer tanks will be constructed close to the tanker jetty to pump products from the jetty to the facility. The proposed facility entails several above-ground bulk storage tanks as well as pipelines, pump stations, dispatch facilities and control rooms, amongst others.

The storage tanks will consist of fixed and floating rooftop tanks. Preliminary designs indicate eight floating rooftops within the proposed bulk storage facility.

There will be other smaller fire-fighting and safety tanks.

The envisaged plant includes state-of-the art technologies such as vapour recovery systems. These technologies are presently not in operation in Wavis Bay.

Despite the positive social-economic benefits of the proposed development, bulk fuel storage facilities have pollutant related risks attached to them and the immediate environment.

Hydrocarbons are volatile under certain conditions and their vapour in specific concentrations is flammable. If precautions are not taken to prevent their ignition, fire and subsequent safety risks may arise.

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