The Tema Oil Refinery (TOR) has carried out emergency repair works on its pipelines to prevent possible explosion at the Tema Port as a result of persistent leakage of petroleum products from pipelines at the oil jetty into the port.
The pipelines belonging to TOR and used for the transmission of crude oil, liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), gasoline, among other highly inflammable products, to the refinery and other critical installations in the Tema metropolis have not seen any major refurbishment since 2010.
The oil jetty is a birthing facility where oil tankers dock at ports of entry to offload cargo which is piped or transmitted to the storage facilities onshore.
The lack of proper maintenance has caused the pipes to corrode, while the main valves used in the pumping of products are equally in deplorable conditions.
As a result, petroleum products from the lines could be seen flowing freely from the damaged portions of the lines into the Fishing Harbour and the PSC Tema Shipyard, increasing fears that the 2005 Good Friday disaster which claimed many lives as a result of similar leakage could recur.
With most of the deplorable pipelines so close to the oil jetty, an imminent disaster could have dire consequences on the operations of the port in general.
The acting Managing Director of TOR, Mr Kwame Awuah-Darko, told the Daily Graphic that he undertook an inspection tour of the lines following the notification served by the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority (GPHA), saying efforts were underway to refurbish and replace the lines that ought to be replaced totally.
Shortly after the detection of the leakages, he said, TOR caused emergency repair works to be carried out to prevent any possible catastrophe.
He said major repair works would be carried out later.
The Daily Graphic gathered that although TOR had carried out inspection on the lines as far back as 2011 and made recommendations for replacement, officials were unable to do so owing to financial challenges that had crippled the operations of the refinery since 2009.
A tour of the lines revealed written inscriptions with timelines for refurbishment and replacement. While some of the lines were dated to be replaced in 2011, others had March 2015 as the date for total replacement.
In spite of the dilapidated condition of the lines, the transmission of products is still being done using the pipes, since there are no other alternatives for such purposes.
And indications are that should there be a fire outbreak, the Tema Port would have to be automatically shut down, and that could have revenue implications for the country’s ailing economy.
The Fire Safety Manager at the GPHA, Mr Jimmy Nab Daisie, told the Daily Graphic that the development had created apprehension in the port environment, as several appeals made to the management of TOR had not been heeded to.
“We do constant monitoring of the lines as part of our safety routine and our observations are that the management of TOR has not been proactive in ensuring that adequate safety measures are in place to avert any disaster,” he pointed out.
He expressed worry that whereas officials of TOR had carried out inspection of the pipelines, “they have done very little to ensure that they are in good condition or replaced,” Mr Daisie stated.
He stressed that the situation ought to be addressed in earnest to avoid a recurrence of the 2005 tragedy in which a vessel that was undergoing maintenance works at the shipyard was engulfed in fire after it came into contact with oil spillage on the surface of the sea from a leaking pipeline.
Mr Daisie cited an instance when, during the transmission of aviation fuel from the jetty through the lines, a fire outbreak nearly occurred. According to him, high volumes of the product were spilled over during the transfer as a result of the weak nature of the links on the lines.
“We had to immediately halt the operations and evacuate personnel to safety to avoid disaster,” he stressed. He was of the view that the GPHA might be prompted to ask officials of TOR to halt operations of the lines until all safety concerns had been addressed.
“We are guided by a recent explosion at the world’s largest port, the Tianjin Port, which led to the loss of many lives and destruction of property.
“The tragedy has become a wake-up call for port authorities across the globe to put in place preventive measures to avert a similar incident. We can only hope that officials of TOR will address the challenges as soon as possible,” Mr Daisie emphasised.
Source: Graphic Online