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The Warsaw Voice » Other » December 3, 2008
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Fuel Giant More Eco-Friendly
December 3, 2008   
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Polish fuel giant PKN Orlen, one of Central Europe's largest refiners of crude oil, has thrown off its reputation as a polluter and successfully reduced its negative impact on the environment. It has also established a special subsidiary, Orlen Eko, to take care of the corporation's operations in areas such as waste generation and the management of that waste.

At the end of October, Orlen Eko launched a thermal installation for processing toxic waste, one of the most modern facilities of its kind in Europe. Veolia Water Systems built the facility at a cost of over zl.105 million, starting construction in June last year. The installation is capable of processing 50,000 metric tons of waste annually. It is also the first facility in Poland that treats waste from outside sources, including municipal sewage.

The installation for the thermal processing of toxic waste consists of waste preparation and transportation facilities, two separate waste combustion lines, and systems for the harnessing of resultant heat energy and the purification of exhaust fumes. The installation is primarily designed for the treatment of oil refinery waste but can also be used to treat dry residue from municipal sewage treatment plants. All waste is mixed together prior to treatment to achieve the best results.

According to Orlen experts, the installation meets all environmental protection regulations such as gas emission levels, operational parameters and the quality of the final waste. It also conforms to the European Commission's IPPC 2008/1/EC Directive in terms of Best Available Techniques (BAT).

"This is the best available technology," says Zbigniew Heidrich, a professor at the Warsaw University of Technology's Department of Environmental Engineering. According to Heidrich, the technology guarantees the safe combustion of sewage. Many cities, among them Łódź, Cracow and Szczecin, have chosen this plant to treat their sewage.

PKN Orlen managers say that the underlining reason for building the installation was the need to meet European Union environmental standards. In 2004, gas emission levels from PKN Orlen's Płock plant did not meet EU conditions. Orlen thus decided to modernize its treatment system for refinery and petrochemical waste and to this end established Orlen Eko.

The company manages some 155,000 tons of waste every year, of which some 33,000 tons is thermally treated. Some of this waste comes from farms, orchards, fisheries, and food processing plants. It also includes pesticides; waste from the processing of crude oil, coal and natural gas; and waste generated during the production of plastics, paints, lacquers, adhesives and greases in the chemical sector.

"We are continually improving our environmental protection standards," says PKN Orlen CEO Wojciech Heydel. "In 2007, we carried out over 700 various ecological projects on the sites of our fuel stations and fuel storage facilities to the tune of zl.138 million, or 70 percent more that a year earlier. In our production plant in Płock, we spent over zl.122 million on endeavors to improve environmental protection and significantly reduce the emission of sulfur dioxide from our thermal power plant."

PKN Orlen's environmental protection measures in 2007 included improved water and sewage management, prevention of fuel-product seepage into the ground, reduction of air-borne pollution, and noise reduction. According to the company's 2007 Environmental Report, these projects significantly reduced emissions of sulfur dioxide (by 31 percent), particulate matter (by 23 percent) and other air pollutants.

Last year PKN Orlen began to modernize its fuel stations by introducing sewage separators, hermetic seals on installations, measurement probes, and improved seals on tanks to prevent pollution through seepage into the ground. In all, PKN Orlen spent over zl.70 million on these measures.

Orlen Eko takes part in the Responsible Care program that is endorsed by the chemical sector all over the world and serves to promote activities to lessen the sector's negative impact on the environment. The Polish company also supports the endeavors of Płock's Regional Center for Education in Ecology, whose aim is to promote environmental protection among children and young people, and participates in promotional events such as Earth Day and Clean Up the World.

The Płock refinery has its own "green police," which inspects and monitors production processes to ensure that the environment is not harmed.

In February this year, Orlen Eko was named a "Company Close to the Environment" for prioritizing environmental protection in its development strategy. The company also won the title of "Polish Ecology Partner" in the "Friends of the Environment" ecological competition held under the auspices of Polish President Lech Kaczyński.

Julia Pawłowska

Protecting Falcons
This year marks seven years since PKN Orlen teamed up with the Sokół Association for Wild Animals aiming to restore the Polish population of peregrine falcons. Eighteen fledglings have hatched so far in nesting boxes placed on PKN Orlen premises. The birds are monitored all year round. The company regularly reviews the nesting boxes, produces photo and video documentation of the nesting falcons and rings the fledglings. In 2007, four fledglings hatched in a nesting box installed on the chimney of a heat-and-power generating plant on PKN Orlen premises. It has been confirmed that all the eggs were laid by the same bird. A pair of peregrine falcons has nested on the premises of the oil refinery in Płock and produced fledglings for the seventh year running, which is extremely rare for this species.

Containment Systems
The containment systems preventing the leakage of fuel at PKN Orlen filling stations and fuel terminals are installed to minimize any harmful environmental impact and improve working and living conditions for people in the impact area.

There are two types of containment systems at PKN Orlen filling stations. The first and most important one is designed to prevent fuel vapor emissions in the process of pumping fuel from tank trucks to underground tanks. The second one is designed to prevent fuel vapor emissions at the pumps in the process of filling up with gasoline. The system directs vapor emitted from the car tank back to the underground fuel tank with the use of a vacuum pump.
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