It has been confirmed that the recent huge fire and resulting explosions that occurred during the replacement of pipelines at the Matosinhos refinery stemmed from inadequate safety procedures.
A report from Galpenergia has concluded that “the procedures established in this operation were insufficient”, concludes the commission of enquiry ordered by Galpenergia. The incident occurred during the replacement of 18 oil pipelines on a two-kilometre stretch linking the refinery to the Leixões terminal.
According to Galpenergia, the fire “was limited to the Leixões terminal area” and the refinery “was never in any danger”. But the report also stressed that “immediate precautions should be adopted to ensure that this kind of incident is not repeated”.
“worst in Europe”
The Petrogal oil refinery in Matosinhos has one of the worst pollution records in Europe, according to environmental association Quercus. The organisation says the refinery releases too many harmful metallic substances, such as nickel and chromium, into the atmosphere. Quercus warns that emissions from the Petrogal refinery increase the risk of cancer and damage to vital organs. “In spite of the Matosinhos refinery being far from one of the biggest in Europe, it is one of the heaviest pollutants, causing grave implications for health,” the organisation reveals.
Measurements put Petrogal’s Matosinhos refinery in second worst place in the European league table for arsenic emissions, third worst for cadmium and fifth worst for nickel emissions. “This refinery releases around 14 tonnes of heavy metals per year into the atmosphere and has a poor record for releasing other harmful particles that can be inhaled,” stresses Quercus. In addition, the association warns that the refinery in Sines, with twice the capacity of Matosinhos, is ‘environmentally unfriendly’. The organisation describes it as “the second worst in Europe for nickel emissions and the third worst for harmful particles that can be inhaled”.
Campaigners are demanding closer monitoring from the Inspector General of the Environment, fulfilment of environmental regulations and more transparency about the exact quantity of harmful emissions. “The five stations that monitor air quality in Matosinhos fail to give a precise enough record of harmful emissions from the Petrogal refinery. This does not allow an accurate evaluation of the harmful effects of these pollutants, nor of the degradation of air quality in the vicinity,” concludes Quercus.