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Sapref continues contaminant cleanup a month after KZN floods

Suthentira Govender Senior reporter
Sapref oil refinery, south of Durban, during the April floods. File photo.
Sapref oil refinery, south of Durban, during the April floods. File photo.
Image: via Facebook

SA's largest crude oil refinery Sapref is forging ahead with its cleanup of contaminants that washed up onto beaches close to the south Durban site during last month's devastating floods.

The huge refinery site was not spared by the torrential rainfall that wreaked havoc in Durban and surrounds.

“The heavy rains and damage to the Umlaas Canal wall led to Sapref being flooded, with water levels reaching two to three-metres across the site. This resulted in extensive damage to equipment and infrastructure, including plant, roads, IT systems, electricity and water systems,” Sapref said on Monday.

The flooding took place while the refinery was in the final stages of shutting down for a planned maintenance period.

“The hydrocarbon inventory in the units was at a minimum. The units that were still online tripped due to floods, resulting in some flaring of light hydrocarbons on the night of April 12 that continued into April 13.”

Hydrocarbons are the principal constituents of petroleum and natural gas.

A Sapref drone surveillance assessment “showed no major leaks from storage tanks”.

“A few tanks were left visibly tilting at the storage area. These tanks were almost empty. Some hydrocarbons in open oil recovery systems and waste dams, as well as drums and vehicles, were washed from site and surrounding areas onto the adjacent beach.

“There was a significant impact to the coast south of the canal up to Tiger Rocks beach.”

An assessment of the environmental impact was conducted.

“This was followed by a clean-up of the affected beach as well as the canal.

“The Sapref canal and Isipingo estuary were sectioned off to prevent further contamination. To date, 90% of the contaminated debris has been removed from the beach, estuary and mangroves.

“All relevant environmental authorities were notified of this flooding event and Sapref is working under their direction as the clean-up progresses to completion.”


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