Thursday, 8 December 2011

Trafigura: Not the Whole Truth 10 – Abidjan and Slops

 

A series of posts in which I highlight areas where Trafigura, or those whose writing is supportive of them, does not tell the whole truth. There will be truth, possibly a lot of truth, in the statements I look at but all is not as it seems. I don’t allege that the ‘Not the Whole Truth’s are deliberate.

After a few posts away I return to Trafigura’s 38 page document, “Trafigura and the Probo Koala”.  I am still on page 4, where I was for posts 1 to 5 in this series but I’ve moved to the third paragraph a portion of which I have appended.

‘Abidjan is not a remote, third world backwater as implied by some media reports: it is a major African port and industrial city, the country is a major crude oil producer and exporter, it has a refinery adjacent to the port and other modern industrial facilities. In addition to the handling of wastes from refining oil, slops have been discharged there without incident many times before by international companies, including oil majors. [My emphasis]

I do not disagree with any of this provided I omit the words ‘without incident : I have no information to support or deny this.  With this proviso I accept that Trafigura has written the truth.

Later in the same document  - page 8 they write in a similar vein.

Since 1965, the port had been handling oil-related cargoes for a number of major oil companies and was therefore experienced in operations relating to slops from vessels.

Again these are words I agree with but ….

A huge truth is hidden.

Not the whole truth!

 

I wrote about this very issue in the third post - Not the Whole Truth 3 – ‘An Everyday Occurrence’? – and I make no apologies for reproducing much of that post here.  What I wrote then is directly relevant to Trafigura’s statement about Abidjan.

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The highlighted sentence in the context of the paragraph implies, in my view, that the Probo Koala’s waste was of a type normally or routinely discharged – ‘an everyday occurrence’ - but the waste was far from routine and Trafigura’s emails show they knew that it was not routine waste.

In December 2005, Naeem Ahmed sent an email – cc-ing Claude Dauphin – which stated:

I have approached all our storage terminals with the possibility of Caustic washing and only Vopak Fujairah and Tankmed La Skhirra our (sic) willing to entertain the idea, and currently perform this operation at FRCL (Fujairah) only.  This operation is no longer allowed in EU / US / Singapore.

Caustic washes are banned by most countries due to the hazardous nature of the waste (mercaptans, phenols, smell) and suppliers of caustic are unwilling to dispose of the water since there are not many facilities remaining in the market.  There is a company in Rotterdam that burns such waste in a high stack chimney and charges are approx $200/kg and could have up to 1000kg of sludge after a treatment operation.  Under EU law you no longer allowed to transport such waste across EU borders.

Here Trafigura are looking at caustic washing the coker naphtha on land but they are struggling to find any company to do so because the process is banned or because the waste is difficult and expensive to dispose of.

According to the Judgment of the Dutch Court, “The washing of gasoline is an industrial process that, up until that point, had always been carried out in appropriate installations on land, …

I have seen no evidence that caustic washing of coker naphtha had ever been carried out on board ship before Trafigura used the Probo Koala.

If this was the first time this process had been carried out on board ship, then disposal of the Probo Koala’s cannot be described as ‘an everyday occurrence’.

If ‘suppliers of caustic are unwilling to dispose of the water since there are not many facilities remaining in the market’ then disposal of the Probo Koala’s waste cannot be described as ‘an everyday occurrence’.

If ‘Caustic washes are banned by most countries due to the hazardous nature of the waste (mercaptans, phenols, smell) then disposal of the Probo Koala’s waste cannot be described as an everyday occurrence’.

‘(A)n everyday occurrence’?

Not the whole truth !

The information in this post not only shows ‘not the whole truth’ it begs the question, ‘How could Trafigura not ensure that the waste was disposed of by one of the ‘not many facilities remaining in the market.

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Here we have the same ‘Not the whole truth’ in Abidjan as in Amsterdam.  Surely the same missing information, the same missing truth, will allow us to understand the dichotomy.  Trafigura, if it so wished, could put the missing truth into the public domain today.

Well?

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