Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Trafigura: Not the Whole Truth 8: Not Low Risk in Amsterdam


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 July last year, a Dutch court found Trafigura guilty of hiding the real nature of the Probo Koala’s waste when it arrived in Amsterdam [See AFP]

I reported previously how the Probo Koala’s waste did not meet the acceptance criteria for APS’ quote; how Trafigura could / should have known that this was the case.

Because they misled APS, according to the Dutch court, Trafigura’s waste went into the low- risk treatment stream.

In the first post of the series I wrote:

‘According to the NFI Report, upon which Trafigura has relied to support its views,

The waste water from the Probo Koala was accepted by APS as low-risk material.”

but it wasn’t “low-risk”.’

In this low–risk stream the pH of the aqueous waste was reduced to a point at which hydrogen sulphide could be released.  NFI used modelling techniques to predict the effects of the release of hydrogen sulphide and other compounds on the surrounding area under different weather conditions, different amounts of waste treated and different amounts of mercaptans and hydrogen sulphide released.

My next post will give more details of what NFI’s modelling predicts for the effects of odour release from APS but here I give only one prediction.

Discussion of scenario B: 3.6 g/s mercaptans and 0.25 g/s H2S
In all weather conditions there was an unpleasant smell up to a large distance from the source (approx. 1.5 km) as a consequence of exceeding the VRW for (mainly) mercaptans. This distance may
extend to 7 km in the most unfavourable circumstances (for spreading) (D 1.5).  In this part scenario there is probably no overshooting of the AGW in the surroundings. In this scenario the area with possible effects from exceeding the AGW for mercaptans (nausea and headaches) is restricted to APS’s premises.’

NOTE 1: Of all the predictions this is the one with the smallest effect.  All others give greater effects.

NOTE 2:  VRW = This is the concentration of a substance that would most probably be experienced by most of the exposed population as a nuisance. Above the VRW level, slight, rapidly reversible health effects are possible. The VRW is often the concentration at which exposed individuals begin to complain of their awareness of exposure. Complaints of smell.

NOTE 3:  AGW =  This is the concentration of a substance at which irreversible or other serious health damage may occur due to direct toxic effects. Nausea and headaches.

These predictions were made on the basis of the amount of Trafigura’s waste NFI believed was actually treated.  If larger or smaller amounts had been treated then the effect might have been greater or smaller respectively.

Even if, as APS assert – see last post, none of the Probo Koala’s waste was processed the treatment conditions – addition of acid and dilution with water - were such that hydrogen sulphide would have been released when its treatment started.


What is clear is that by telling ‘Not the whole truth’  Trafigura risked a more serious incident in Amsterdam.


I leave you with this quote from page 36 of the translated NFI report.

It is established that the processing of one or more litres of Probo Koala waste can cause the VRW to be exceeded, irrespective of the type of weather.

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