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BUSINESS FOCUS - ENERGY & ENVIRONMENT - OFFICIAL SAYS IT IS A SHAME BUT A FACT OF LIFE THAT SLOVNAFT IS WHERE IT IS

Sticking to the rules

SLOVNAFT, the biggest refinery in Slovakia, is located just next door to the country's capital, Bratislava. As the production of chemicals has a significant impact on the environment of the city, the factory has to be more than watchful of environmental measures. Still, some studies have pointed to traffic as the major source of the pollution in Bratislava.
"Slovnaft's priority is to anticipate and forego ineligible and non-standard situations, issues, and accidents. Given the nature of Slovnaft's operations, such issues cannot be fully eliminated in advance," said Kristína Félová, the spokeswoman for Slovnaft.

SLOVNAFT, the biggest refinery in Slovakia, is located just next door to the country's capital, Bratislava. As the production of chemicals has a significant impact on the environment of the city, the factory has to be more than watchful of environmental measures. Still, some studies have pointed to traffic as the major source of the pollution in Bratislava.

"Slovnaft's priority is to anticipate and forego ineligible and non-standard situations, issues, and accidents. Given the nature of Slovnaft's operations, such issues cannot be fully eliminated in advance," said Kristína Félová, the spokeswoman for Slovnaft.

She continued: "For that reason, Slovnaft has a full series of functional systems enabling prompt reaction in such situations and elimination of the consequences."

Slovnaft has spent approximately Sk1 billion (€24.62 million) in the last three years on health, safety, and environmental projects to meet the requirements of European environmental legislation. Each year, it puts about Sk400 million (€9.85 million) into environmental projects.

The main benefits are the further reduction of air emissions, a decrease in water consumption, further increase in the efficiency of waste management, and the elimination of water pollution and soil contamination.

Some environmental activists, however, say that Slovnaft may spend a significant sum of money on environmental projects, but that does not change the fact that the company still belongs among the main polluters of the city.

"The emissions might not exceed required limits. However, people can still smell them, especially in the summer or during [temperature] inversions," Ľubica Trubíniová, project manager with the Bratislava regional environmental association, told The Slovak Spectator.

Zlatica Hudecová, the chief of the environmental protection department of the mayor's office, agrees, to a certain extent.

"Slovnaft is just the biggest factory in Bratislava. We can do nothing about that fact. Maybe it was a bad decision in the past to place such a refinery near the city.

"Nevertheless, I am sure that emissions have decreased, and Slovnaft tries hard to reduce the consequences of its activities," she said.

According to Félová, figures about decreasing air emissions, water pollution, and soil contamination are the best evidence that Slovnaft is doing well. It has also required environmental certificates in recent years.

"Slovnaft has become the first major oil and petrochemical company in central Europe to achieve integrated management system certification in accordance with the occupational health and safety specification [of the British Standards Institution], [and the] environmental management system standard and quality management system standard [of the International Organisation for Standardisation]," she said.

One of Slovnaft's biggest environmental projects is a facility for the deep desulphurisation of gas oil, which is a main component of diesel fuel production. Slovnaft has invested Sk2.5 billion (€61.55 million) in the upgrade.

The construction of the unit should be accomplished in 2004. After the finalisation of the project, Slovnaft will be able to produce diesel fuel that fully complies with the EU requirements valid not only from 2005 but also those from 2008.

The main ecological benefits of the project are the reduction of air pollution by sulphur dioxide (SO2) emissions from diesel combustion in the immediate vacinity of Slovant by almost 800 tonnes a year. There will also be a decrease in volatile organic compounds (VOC), nitrogen oxide (NOx) and carbon monoxide (CO) emissions. The risk of groundwater pollution will also be eliminated, as the whole object will be built on an impermeable bed.

A project for the assessment of soil and groundwater contamination in logistical sites was launched by the company in 2002 with the objective of monitoring its activities and determining current and potential environmental and health risks of fuel distribution depots.

In 2002, the US Trade and Development Agency provided Slovnaft with a grant of $300,000 (€241,000) to elaborate a study on how to reduce water consumption in the refinery. The US company Millennium Science & Engineering performed the study.

Through implementation of the study's recommendations, discharged wastewater volume decreased by 10 percent, and the average concentration of total petroleum hydrocarbons fell by 18 percent.

Thanks to new leak detection and repair methodology, Slovnaft reduced VOC emissions in 2003 by approximately 11 percent, compared to a 12 percent decline in 2002. Only 56 percent of the factory's yearly SO2 allowance was used.

Replacing two existing polypropylene production units with a modern Polypropylene 3 unit will also reduce impacts on the local environment.

"The new unit will allow a decrease of SO2, NOx, and CO emissions by 23 tonnes a year, VOC by 390 tonnes a year, and the reduction of cooling water consumption by more than 10 million cubic metres a year. Construction of the new unit should be finished at the beginning of 2005," said Félová.

The last time Slovnaft's impact on the environment became serious was in the 1970s when oil spills contaminated groundwater of the Žitný ostrov region in southern Slovakia, which is an important reservoir of drinking water for Bratislava and its surroundings.

"The consequences of the groundwater contamination have been fully eliminated by now. Additionally, 30 years ago Slovnaft implemented a hydraulic groundwater protection system that helped eliminate such contamination and nowadays it prevents further oil spills from Slovnaft into the water," said the spokeswoman.

In the past few years, Slovnaft has harmonised its health, safety, and environmental (HSE) management with its majority shareholder, the Hungarian company MOL.

"Sharing knowledge, taking advantage of synergies, and applying the best practices of the MOL Group, of which Slovnaft is a significant member, greatly contributed to our successes," said Félová.

"In accordance with our commitment to share information and openly communicate about our HSE management framework and the impact of our activities, products, and services, we developed a tradition of organising the HSE Open Week. Here we present our performance in the HSE field to invited representatives of state authorities, local communities, and other stakeholders," she said.

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