Guest: Felicia Andrei, Manager QHSE Rompetrol Rafinare
What are the projects that contribute to our sustainability objectives of the two refineries, Petromidia and Vega?
Felicia Andrei : Hello everyone from the refinery neighboring the Black Sea.
We have become familiar with the concept of sustainability even in the context in which, following requests from a customer from the European Union, regarding evidence of sustainability for our fuels, we have voluntarily certified ourselves according to an international scheme called International Sustainability and Carbon Certification. In fact, and in short, it is proof that you, as a fuel producer, use biocomponents in their content, which ultimately translates to lower CO2 emissions, following the burning of fuels in car engines. If you want, we can say that we were one step ahead of the legislation, because the European directive was transposed by Ordinance in Romania in 2018 - and we obtained and maintained the certification since 2017.
We are facing increasing pressure, especially from the European Union - primarily in terms of implementation deadlines, given that, let's not forget, the Vega Refinery is located in a crowded area, where there are 2 other Refineries, and if we talk about Petromidia, it is located at the intersection of tourist areas with protected areas in the Danube Delta biosphere. This makes us responsible to the local communities, both in terms of environmental quality and safety in the operation of technological facilities.
We have ambitious projects, and given the fact that the environment has become and will remain an important business driver not only in the Refinery but also in other activities with an impact on the environment, we can say that we have started our homework since 2012. Why 2012? Because during that year, Petromidia completed the transition period, in order to align the units with the European environmental requirements, moreover, at the beginning of 2013, Petromidia was the first Refinery with a new integrated environmental permit, valid for 10 years, and without any compliance program. That is, from our point of view, it was a great achievement for the entity.
Not intending to bore you with technical details, I would still like to point out some of the investment projects with a positive impact on the quality of environmental factors: the replacement of existing burners in ovens with LOW NOX burners - which led to reduced NOX emissions. Another project was the modernization of the gas sulfurization plant, sulfur recovery, a project that lasted, I think, more than 3 years and which aimed to reduce sulfur dioxide emissions into the atmosphere. Installations for reducing particulate matter from flue gases in the plant catalytic cracking.
It is clear that all these investments involved very high costs, but without their implementation we would not have been able to comply with all environmental requirements that are, as we said, more and more restrictive. We mentioned the chronological landmark of 2012. I would like to refer to another landmark, 2018, which was a milestone for Refinery operators, given the limit for implementing all applicable environmental requirements in accordance with the Best Available Technology decisions. There have been so many investments and so important that the proof of these good investments is the fact that today we have "Integrated Environmental Authorizations" in both Refineries and that we operate without problems in this area.
What are the projects implemented in the Vega refinery?
Felicia Andrei: Several similar projects to align with compliance requirements were implemented in Vega. Many of the projects implemented during the last turnaround aimed, first of all, at the improvement of the air quality, through optimizations of the operational flow, modernizations of tanks and many others, which are in this technical and operational areas. Because we were talking, we were talking about phrasing, I think you all heard a lot about the reduction of CO2 emissions. We can proudly say that through our department, we have been monitoring and reporting these emissions since 2007.
What would be of interest and I hope for you as well, is the fact that "Leak Detection and Repair" programs have been implemented in each Refinery, which, put in simple terms, means a monitoring of volatile organic compounds. It is an industrial practice designed to identify accidental hydrocarbon losses generated by equipment in facilities, and the benefits are not only to reduce the negative impact on the environment but also to reduce technological consumption, increase safety for operating personnel, and the integrity of our facilities. And very recently, the acquisition of a detection chamber for volatile organic compounds will be completed, which will allow the implementation of this program with internal resources.
What are the safety measures implemented during the period of the pandemic?
Felicia Andrei: Yes, for us, the big challenge was by far the turnaround. Last year's turnaround, by definition, was an atypical turnaround. It is almost impossible that even in normal times such a project won’t have that element of novelty, unexpected, and today we are about a year away from the turnaround and we are happy to look back, and share with you, the story of a refinery turnaround, in a time of pandemic. Careful! With zero accidents, with zero cases of infection with this virus that brought us so many problems, there were natural fears, many, many unknowns, but we worked hard, solutions were found and, above all, we were together during this challenging journey, regardless of the job description, regardless of the color of the personal protective equipment, beyond the formal limits that usually exist: contractor, subcontractor, entrepreneur, beneficiary. So, a journey that we completed together, regardless of whether we called ourselves Rompetrol Rafinare, Rominserv, GSS, MMT, RQC, Group, really didn't matter.
What was very important during this period: we learned together how to react, as it actually happens during field applications, in order to prepare for emergencies, and to test our ability to respond to such situations, but unfortunately, this time - designed and applied during the pandemic. Slowly, we developed and improved: procedures, communication flows, contingency plans and continuity plans for both turnaround and normal operation. In fact, the continuity plans were thought on 3 scenarios: red, yellow, green, depending on the potential number of cases of infection at the refinery, and in these plans we practically developed the steps, how to move, how to better manage the human resources, especially for the key positions in the operational, but also the interaction with the other entities, with the other departments on the platform that provide support, being extremely relevant documents in such a situation.The contingency plan, on the other hand, includes all the protection measures, implemented in stages, also depending on the scenario. What we actually tried during this pandemic year, we tried to keep in touch, permanently, with colleagues, so that, even subliminally, we could send them that message, that we are with them, overcome the challenge, return healthy at home and at work. Communication is and has been essential, including during the turnaround, even if we had, perhaps, less comfortable topics to communicate, daily reports, weekly reports, reports of identified non-compliances regarding compliance with rules, KPIs constantly monitored. The turnaround left me with a beautiful lesson, it proved once again that a simple Thank you, or a smile, were the greatest rewards for us in the QHSE department - when we had the opportunity, to surprise and reach the souls of our colleagues, through small motivational actions, during certain holidays, Palm Sunday, Easter, when they didn’t celebrate with their families but worked on the units, and there were moments that you just have to live, you have to be there to really perceive them. Of course, there were other actions that were not covered by the media, because they happened very naturally in this pandemic context: masks and gloves were donated, when there was a crisis in the Emergency Hospital, disinfectants to the authorities, and many other smaller things, but for sure, all from the heart.