Detailed site inspection mooted to study pollution issues at BPCL Kochi refinery

Proximity of flare stack to residential zone a grave concern, says committee

A technical committee appointed by the State Pollution Control Board has recommended a detailed site inspection to assess the allegations of air, water and noise pollution owing to the various expansion projects of the Bharat Petroleum Corporation Ltd’s (BPCL) Kochi refinery.

Besides board officials, the committee consisted of experts from the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Central Pollution Control Board, Petroleum and Explosives Safety Organisation (PESO), and the District Development Commissioner. Residents staying near the expansion projects had alleged pollution and raised safety concerns before the authorities. Some of them had also approached the National Green Tribunal seeking remedial action.

The report by the committee observed that the proximity of the flare stack in the Propylene Derivative Petrochemical Project (PDPP) was a grave concern. The higher noise level, continuous lighting, foul smell and smoke emission during flaring affect normal life. The high noise level in the residential zone was a clear violation of the EC/Consent conditions, it said.

Green belt

The technical committee pointed out that the absence of green belt provided in the PDPP/IREP project area was not in compliance with the specific condition under environment clearance (EC) related to the development of green belt. This has to be referred to the EC issuing authority for further necessary actions, it said.

The committee has recommended removal of all scrap and construction material dumped or lying in the green belt and plant area. The company authorities need to consider indigenous/native species for future green belt development and follow the guidelines issued by the Central Pollution Control Board for selection of plant species. It should submit an action plan with a time schedule to achieve the required green belt around the project periphery.

The report cited that the layout of installations close to the public roads and residences suggests that buffer zone/area was not maintained. The safety distance criteria from the project installations needs to be evaluated by a proper safety adequacy assessment in line with the various Oil Industry Safety Directorate standards and PESO guidelines. A proper safety assessment may be conducted with a committee comprising relevant regulatory authorities, it said.

All measures in place: BPCL

All safety and pollution control measures have been ensured in the project areas as per the prescribed guidelines and norms, according to the BPCL authorities.

The PDPP units were constructed as per the OISD/PESO guidelines by maintaining the distance criteria specified in the status. Flare stacks having a height of 91m from ground level as emergency relief devices are provided and during normal operations, only pilot flame with minimal fuel firing will be in line. Because of the high elevation level and temperature, the combustion products are dispersed easily into the atmosphere, they informed the technical committee.

On the development of green belt in the PDPP project site, the company authorities pointed out that they had earmarked 40 acres for developing green cover. The green belt was developed along both the sides of the canal and other areas adjacent to the boundary walls in consultation with a former Deputy Forest Conservator. They selected suitable native plant species for the green belt. Around 25,000 saplings were planted in an area of 40 acres in the IREP project area, which is more than 33% of the plant area. A Miyawaki forest was developed in the area, they said.

On the question of not providing green belt/ buffer zone in certain areas, the company stated that it had developed green belt inside the project area as mentioned in environmental clearance conditions. There were no stipulations and buffer zones given in the conditions for environment clearance, according to the clarification submitted before the committee.

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