Saturday, 3 December 2011

Trafigura: Not the Whole Truth 5 – Price Hike & COD


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.

In the first four posts I haven’t got past the first paragraph in Trafigura’s 38 page document, “Trafigura and the Probo Koala” – on page 4 after the index but I move forward now …..

…. to the second sentence (highlighted) in the second paragraph. Below is the entire paragraph – remember this is the 5th post in the series and I’m only on the sixth sentence of the paper.

Trafigura appointed a licensed operator, Amsterdam Port Services BV (APS), to handle the treatment of the slops. After receiving the slops on their barge in Amsterdam, APS increased its price for treatment of the slops by 3,000% without justification. [My emphasis] Trafigura rejected APS’ offer and departed Amsterdam for Paldiski, Estonia where it was due to collect a cargo.

Not the Whole Truth!


I don’t know the basis on which APS increased the price 30-fold but the agreed waste did not meet the specification: not by a long, long way.

APS stipulated that the Chemical Oxygen Demand (COD) value – a simple measure of water quality and of its polluting ability - should be less than 2000 mg/l but the average value, as reported by NFI  (Netherlands Forensic Institute), was 600000 mg/l. [For a definition of COD see the end of this post.]

The Probo Koala’s waste exceeded the stipulated limit 300-fold (or by 30,000%).  On this basis alone, APS had a right to review the charges.


Later in Trafigura’s document - on page 7 - is this:

APS claimed the Chemical Oxygen Demand (COD) level of the slops was higher than the figure than they had anticipated but provided no test results to substantiate the claim.

APS expected that the waste’s COD would not exceed 2000mg/l as agreed by Trafigura.  APS may not have provided test results but the first result they gave - 500,000 mg/l – now looks to have been accurate.  I must state also that APS later gave a much lower figure of 20,000 mg/l.

Trafigura should have expected the waste’s COD to exceed the limit set by APS.  I found on the web this information about the range of CODs to be found in spent caustic:

Typically 10,000 to 100,000 mg/L
Low: 3,000 mg/L
High: 200,000 mg/L


The very next sentence on page 7 is:

In reality, while high, the COD level of the slops material was irrelevant ….

Not the whole truth!


The COD level did matter.


The NFI Report (Dutch version here; English translation here) – 2nd last paragraph in Section 8.2 states

As an example it was calculated what the dilution factor would be on the basis of the COD criteria, taken from page 3 of the TCR. There a maximum of 2000 mg/l is given for the COD (Chemical Oxygen Demand).

This figure is taken from the data for a similar installation in Rotterdam.  The Report states that design changes and/or experience may lead to a different maximum at APS.

The maximum COD of 2000 mg/l above is the same maximum given in the APS quote which Trafigura accepted.  The NFI Report continues:

The COD measured in the Probo Koala waste varies from 450000 (measured by ATM, see svo 3.002), 650000 measured by APS 4, to the value 720000 mg/l measured by Omegam and cited in this report; the average is 600000 mg/l.

The Probo Koala’s waste massively exceeded the maximum level with which the process could cope.  The Report goes on:

This means that the waste water from the Probo Koala must be diluted by a factor of 300 to remain within the limits of the original design criteria.

The average measured COD was 600000 mg/l which when diluted by 300 ==>  2000mg/l: the design limit.


Not the whole truth, indeed!



Chemical Oxygen Demand (COD)

In environmental chemistry, the chemical oxygen demand (COD) test is commonly used to indirectly measure the amount of organic compounds in water. Most applications of COD determine the amount of organic pollutants found in surface water (e.g. lakes and rivers) or wastewater, making COD a useful measure of water quality. It is expressed in milligrams per liter (mg/L), which indicates the mass of oxygen consumed per liter of solution.

1 comment:

  1. Chemical oxygen demand can be measured experimentally by oxidizing a sample. Small kits are available, where the sample is just dropped into a small vial containing strong oxidizing agent and heated for a long period of time. Afterwards the vial is evaluated photometrically. The change in color reflects how much could be oxidized in the sample. Source: