8. Orimulsion

In spite of experiencing this terrible oil spill and with the knowledge of the wide-spread and disastrous results it has had in the area, the Milford Haven Port Authority now wants to build yet another jetty in the Haven, as there are plans of burning Orimulsion in the vicinity to fuel the Pembroke Power Station, which up to now has been using residual fuel oil. Orimulsion is an emulsion of water and natural bitumen to which the chemical nonylphenol is added.

Many people in Pembrokeshire dread the coming of Orimulsion (as you can see in the following poem from Peter Bossom:61)

'SEA EMPRESS'

The great she sea dragon
Hasting to spawn in her nursery waters
Suddenly raped by red rocks
Her soft underbelly ripped and ruptured
Shattered she lists, sinking sideways
Lifeblood leaks into storm tossed waters
Basilisk black and reeking poison
Soft and viscous, clinging and choking
Dealing destruction to all it touches.
Disintegrating the complex community
Of fin and feather, shell and seashore.
Can those who caused it now control it?
Or do all die in its writhing death throes.
Sighted afar is Orimulsion
Elder sister, black and turgid
Will she come to revenge her sibling
Blanket all with her own blind fury
And finally finish all, our beauty.
Can the Welsh dragon defend his homeland?
Or be betrayed by those he trusted
Sold for Judas' sordid silver
While we look on in anger and anguish
Generations will gibe at our lack of honour
If we do not seek to act with wisdom
And ensure these things will never happen.

There is very little experience of it up to now, but it would supposedly have even worse effects in the environment, if it was spilled, than oil. As it disperses quickly right down to the seabed, there would be no chance of cleaning it up from the surface of the water with the usual techniques already known in Milford Haven.

So most people in Pembrokeshire are clearly against this project, as there are so many risks involved. To start with, it is reported that, by burning Orimulsion, fine particles of toxic metal such as nickel, vanadium and arsenic are spread into the atmosphere.62 This would obviously increase respiratory illnesses such as asthma (which is very common in this area anyway) and could also cause heart conditions and cancer.63 The sulphur dioxide emissions would greatly increase the total emission of this in the area and the level of oxides of nitrogen would be six times as high as it is now. There would also be the problem of where to deposit the huge amounts of gypsum and other side products that have to be dumped somewhere.64 Orimulsion is also reckoned to affect fish nursery sites and if there really was a spill, it would have horrendous consequences for the whole fishing industry, as it would harm the fish population even more than oil does.65

If sea water is polluted with Orimulsion, the chemical content has a harmful effect on the reproductive ability of its aquatic life.66 Some experts also believe that Orimulsion could cause acid rain.67 It seems irresponsible to consider burning Orimulsion on a site, where the risk of transport accidents has proved to be extremely high, and knowing about the poor safety measures (salvage capacity, etc.).

It is said they would use double-hulled tankers to transport the Orimulsion, but whether this would make much difference is a matter of opinion, as it is also claimed that the use of a double-hulled tanker instead of the single-hulled Sea Empress would not have prevented the disaster. Moreover, if the plant was built, there would surely be more traffic on the waterway, which would automatically increase the risk of ship collisions.68

Of course, burning Orimulsion also has its advantages. As the rate of unemployment in this area is extremely high, the project would give a great number of people the chance of getting a new job. But this would be at the expense of workers in other parts, as other power stations in various parts of South Wales are supposed to be shut down as a consequence.

I personally believe (and I think most people in Pembrokeshire do as well) that burning Orimulsion in a region of such high environmental sensitivity is just not acceptable and should not be allowed from the point of view of the conservation of nature. Pembrokeshire is really an area of very special scientific and environmental interest and this fact should be taken seriously at last. Fortunately, in the meantime, the plan has been rejected, at least for the present time, and hopefully it will never be realised at all in this lovely part of Britain.


61 cf. The Mercury, Poet's Corner (ref. doc. n 16)
62 cf. Orimulsion: The Great Debate, in: Western Telegraph, 21-02-1996, p. 5
63 cf. Friends of the Earth, Summary of Objections to the Orimulsion Jetty Application, at:WWW-Homepage http://www.foe.co.uk/local/cymru/oilspill/jetty.html  (ref. doc. n 17)
64 cf. Orimulsion: The Great Debate, in: Western Telegraph, 21-02-1996, p. 5
65 cf. Friends of the Earth, Summary of Objections to the Orimulsion Jetty Application, at: WWW-Homepage http://www.foe.co.uk/local/cymru/oilspill/jetty.html  (ref. doc. n 17)
66 cf. Friends of the Earth, Orimulsion, at:WWW-Homepage http://www.foe.co.uk/local/cymru/oilspill/orimulsion.html  (ref. doc. n 18)
67 cf. Orimulsion: The Great Debate, in: Western Telegraph, 21-02-1996, p. 5
68 cf. Friends of the Earth, Summary of Objections to the Orimulsion Jetty Application, at: WWW-Homepage http://www.foe.co.uk/local/cymru/oilspill/jetty.html  (ref. doc. n 17)

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