Disposal of Petrojam's contaminated ethanol ends September

BY BALFORD HENRY
Senior staff reporter
balfordh@jamaicaobseerver.com

Thursday, August 08, 2019

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MINISTER of Science, Energy and Technology Fayval Williams says that individuals or companies in possession of contaminated ethanol should be required to disposed of them in accordance with the environmental laws.

The minister made the statement as she announced plans to remove 181,000 US gallons of contaminated ethanol, valued at $45 million, from the premises of the Petrojam oil refinery on Marcus Garvey Drive in Kingston to the Caribbean Cement Company Limited's (CCCL) plant in Rockfort for incineration by the end of September.

The contaminated ethanol was located on the Petrojam premises during the investigations into the “bad gas” issue in 2015/16 and, according to the minister, became contaminated at the point of importation which coincides with maintenance and flushing operations geared towards replacement of pertinent piping/hoses for loading and off-loading ethanol.

“The ministry thinks that all suspected contaminated fuel should be quarantined by the person in possession of it immediately on discovery, and the Petroleum Inspectorate should be informed within 24 hours of the disposal,” Williams told the House of Representatives, recently.

She noted that the recommendations were among 12 such proposals from the Petroleum Trade Reform Committee (PTRC) which was created in January 2016, a month after the controversial “bad gas” issue set off alarms among petrol users, and whose recommendations are currently being addressed to beef up regulations to protect Jamaicans from the effects of contaminated fuels.

Williams said that, based on the changes being made to the petrol trade legislation, following the “bad gas” experience, all instances of contaminated petroleum must be reported to the Petroleum Inspectorate within 12 hours of discovery, and petroleum products re-treated after contamination will have to be certified for quality by the Petroleum Inspectorate prior to its release into the trade.

Petrojam Ethanol Limited (PEL) was established in 2005 as a partnership between the Jamaican Government and a Brazilian company to secure feedstock from Brazil for processing in a 40-million US gallon plant which had a value of $823 million. The company became totally Jamaican in 2008, but shifted from production to importation in 2013 and stop using the dehydration plant.

In a case study report on the plant, the Auditor General's Department said it was not assured that value for money was being obtained from the investment and called the objective of locally produced ethanol “misaligned” in 2017.

Williams noted that her ministry was aware that the roughly 4,300 barrels of contaminated ethanol had been isolated in three storage tanks at the Petrojam Refinery at Marcus Garvey Drive in Kingston since 2015.

She said that where the contaminated petroleum could be treated by the bulk distributor in possession of it, a new quality certificate after appropriate testing by the Bureau of Standard Jamaica is to be given to the retailer prior to sale of the treated product to the public.

She said, however, that various disposal alternatives were explored and incineration emerged as the method of choice for the Petrojam ethanol. Based on discussions between PEL and CCCL it was discovered that waste disposal by incineration formed part of the cement plant's social responsibility drive so, at the end of February 2019 the CCCL formally indicated to the ministry that it could use that facility to dispose of the contaminated fuel.

However, leading up to CCCL formally indicating that they would be able to dispose of the contaminated ethanol, it still required an application be made by PEL to the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) for the grant of an environmental permit. PEL made the necessary application on June 28 this year, and the permit to undertake the transportation and disposal was issued on July 18.

The transportation of the contaminated ethanol to the cement company commenced on Friday, July 25, using certified tanker wagons and will continue over an eight-week period at a frequency of three trips per week.

Williams said that her ministry sought the assistance of the commissioner of police to provide security escort during the transportation process. Additionally, the opening of the tank and loading of the truck was monitored by Customs, Tax Administration of Jamaica (TAJ), Bureau of Standards, National Regulation and Compliance Authority, Ministry of Finance and the Public Service, and the National Solid Waste Management Authority.

She said that all the necessary approvals were sought from the various entities, including Customs and TAJ who verified that, given the non-cash nature of the transaction, there was no tax nor customs duties applicable.


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