/** headlines: 107.0 **/
** Topic: Damage Assessed From Fires At Sri Lankan Oil Refinery & Storage **
** Written 1:16 AM Nov 6, 1995 by econet in cdp:headlines **
/* Written 2:53 PM Nov 2, 1995 by support@lanka in wwf.news */
/* ---------- "FROM ITES News on OIL FIRE" ---------- */
Terrorists attacked the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation refinery and oil storage installations in Colombo in the early hours of October 20th causing several deaths and massive fires in the storage areas. Fires of this magnitude had not taken place in Sri Lanka previously and the assistance of fire-fighters with experience in fighting oil fires had to be obtained from India.
The fires were accompanied by the deposition of oil which was reported by the media to have formed layers around 0.5 metres thick in some places. Some of the oil passed by way of canals and a major river to the sea. Other immediately visible impacts included those on market gardens in nearby areas.
The Ceylon Institute of Scientific and Industrial Research (CISIR) has issued a preliminary report on some aspects of the incident which may be of environmental significance. Based on information supplied by the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) the crude and refined products presumed destroyed in a two day period were 39,000 tonnes of crude oil, 35,000 tonnes of diesel and 5000 tonnes of kerosene. Taking into account the sulphur contents of the oil products destroyed it was estimated that the oxides of sulphur produced during the fires could have been around 1690 tonnes (when calculated as sulphur dioxide). As regards oxides of nitrogen (calculated as nitrogen dioxide) the total produced could have been around 780 tonnes (including that resulting from the reaction of gaseous nitrogen with oxygen at high temperatures).
A significant proportion of these acidic oxides is expected to have been returned to earth in the rain which accompanied the conflagration.
This experience in Sri Lanka was followed by reports in the media a few days later of an oil fire in Indonesia due to a refinery being struck by lightning. These two incidents have caused further unease among environmentalists in Sri Lanka regarding a proposal to locate a giant refinery cum power plant near Hambantota on the south coast of Sri Lanka. The project is proposed to be located not too far from extremely wildlife-rich areas including feeding grounds of flamingos and other waterfowl and beaches frequented by marine turtles for egg laying. The Yala wildlife sanctuary is also located on the south coast while some of the coral reefs of Sri Lanka may be eventually impacted by oil.
An Environmental Impact Assesment for the proposed project is being prepared by the developers, Regional Cooperative Petroleum Refinery Co Inc., and will be opened for public comment in due course.
Rohan H. Wickramasinghe,
November 01, 1995
Institute for Tropical Environmental Studies,
41 Flower Road,