Monday, 5 December 2011

Trafigura: Not the Whole Truth 6 – Amsterdam Hydrogen Sulphide


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.

[Update: 6 Dec 2011 @ 13.10 Please read this post in conjunction with the update posted here]

Hydrogen sulphide was released from the Probo Koala’s waste. [Update 5 Dec 2011 @ 18.57: For my protection I need to remove the absolute certainty in that opening sentence by adding ‘Almost certainly’ at the start.  I was circumspect elsewhere in the post but I missed this. Apologies.]

In Amsterdam.

Yes!  In Amsterdam!

I don’t recall anyone mentioning this before.  Of course, I could be wrong.  Certainly I have found no record of Trafigura stating that hydrogen sulphide was released from the Probo Koala’s waste during APS’ treatment.  If they have then I’m sure they’ll correct me.

I had missed this nugget many times previously but then, at last, I saw!


Trafigura make much of the fact that, because of the alkaline nature of the waste, hydrogen sulphide could not be released from the waste dumped in Abidjan.  Their source is the much-quoted NFI report which, incidentally, was commissioned because of the smell from – almost certainly - the Probo Koala’s waste in Amsterdam and not because of the waste’s dumping in Abidjan.

I haven’t found any mention by Trafigura that the Probo Koala’s waste caused the release of hydrogen sulphide in Amsterdam nor even that the PK’s waste might have caused the release.


Not the whole truth!


I go back now to Trafigura’s 38 page document, “Trafigura and the Probo Koala”.   The first 5 posts came from the first 6 sentences in this paper but I move forward …. for this post only but I apologise here for the complexity of the post.  This was necessary for my legal protection.  I can’t afford to make any unsupported allegations.

On page 7, Trafigura writes about the impossibility of hydrogen sulphide release in Abidjan:

‘The NFI Report stated that the slops registered a pH of 14, a reading that was extremely alkaline. At this level it was impossible, firstly, for the material to contain hydrogen sulphide in its molecular form ….

and on page 23:

‘The NFI Report found that the slops were highly alkaline which means that they could simply not have contained hydrogen sulphide in its molecular form. As stated by the NFI witness (FJM Bakker) in the Amsterdam criminal proceedings of 11th May 2010 the slops have ‘to be diluted millions of times before hydrogen sulphide is released, or you must add acid’.  [My emphasis]

and adding acid is exactly what happened to the slops in Amsterdam!


Page 27 of the NFI Report (English version) states. [Don’t worry about ‘DAF’ – a process within APS’ treatment or the sample numbers] Again I have emphasised a portion:

‘If compounds spread through the air, only gases and volatile compounds are significant. Regarding the Probo Koala waste water, this involved hydrogen sulphide (H2S) and methyl- and ethylmercaptans.

At pH 14 (the pH of the Probo Koala waste water), however, these compounds dissolve well in water. Only after the addition of sufficient acid can they be removed. The pH of samples [4-1A] and [4-2A] svos from the DAF (svos 1.019 and 1.021) is 7.8.

The pH is the result of adding acid during the neutralization stage of the DAF process and from the large quantity of water from Tank 9 with which the Probo Koala waste was most probably mixed and whose pH value will generally be much lower than 14.

At a pH of 7.8 volatile mercaptans and hydrogen sulphide may be released as gases, but that does not mean that this occurs to 100%


The explanation given by the NFI witness for the release of hydrogen sulphide from the Probo Koala’s waste actually happened  .… in Amsterdam.


The same page of the report also states:

‘Conclusion: methyl- and ethylmercaptans and hydrogen sulphide are in all probability the most important compounds released on 3rd July.

While the Probo Koala’s waste was in APS’ facilities, hydrogen sulphide was released.


The NFI scientists carried out an extremely rigorous analysis of the odour incident - I have confidence in their work – but they do not say with absolute certainty that the cause of the hydrogen sulphide release was the Probo Koala’s waste.  They conclude:

It may be posited that, in view of the considerations contained in the analysis report, the results of the comparative analysis are a better fit with hypothesis 1 (the components encountered in the samples from the DAF installation come from Probo Koala/Main VII) than with hypothesis 2 (the components encountered in the samples from the DAF installation come from another source).

That the scientists use ‘better fit’ might lead some to argue that without certainty the Probo Koala cannot be found guilty. I think the scientists cover this off.

Also in the conclusions to the report the risk to human health is considered and here only two scenarios are considered and each involves the Probo Koala’s waste.

Although there is no certainty, the only position which is written with any confidence is that in which the Probo Koala’s waste was the cause of the incident.  Nowhere in the report, I believe, is succour given to the counter-argument.

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