FROM ITES News on OIL FIRE (fwd)

Coral Health and Monitoring Program coral at coral.AOML.ERL.GOV
Fri Oct 20 22:05:41 EDT 1995

---------- Forwarded message ---------- 
Date: Thu, 2 Nov 95 15:22:55 +0000 
From: support at 
To: coral at coral 
Subject: FROM ITES News on OIL FIRE 

Oil installation fires at Colombo, Sri Lanka 

Terrorists attacked the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation refinery and oil 
storage installations in Colombo in the early hours of October 20th 
causing several deaths and massive fires in the storage areas. Fires of 
this magnitude had not taken place in Sri Lanka previously and the 
assistance of fire-fighters with experience in fighting oil fires had to be 
obtained from India. 

The fires were accompanied by the deposition of oil which was 
reported by the media to have formed layers around 0.5 metres thick in 
some places. Some of the oil  passed by way of canals and a major 
river to the sea. Other immediately visible  impacts included those on 
market gardens in nearby areas. 

The Ceylon Institute of Scientific and Industrial Research (CISIR) has 
issued a preliminary report on some aspects of the incident which may 
be of environmental significance. Based on information supplied by 
the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) the crude and refined 
products presumed destroyed in a two day period were 39,000 tonnes 
of crude oil, 35,000 tonnes of diesel and 5000 tonnes of kerosene. 
Taking into account the sulphur contents of the oil products destroyed 
it was estimated that the oxides of sulphur produced during the fires 
could have been around 1690 tonnes (when calculated as sulphur 
dioxide). As regards oxides of nitrogen (calculated as nitrogen dioxide) 
the total produced could have been around 780 tonnes (including that 
resulting from the reaction of gaseous nitrogen with oxygen at high 

A significant proportion of these acidic oxides is expected to have 
been returned to earth in the rain which accompanied the 

This experience in Sri Lanka was followed by reports in the media a 
few days later of an oil fire in Indonesia due to a refinery being struck 
by lightning. These two incidents have caused further unease among 
environmentalists in Sri Lanka regarding a proposal to locate a giant 
refinery cum power plant near Hambantota on the south coast of Sri 
Lanka. The project is proposed to be located not too far from 
extremely wildlife-rich areas including feeding grounds of flamingos 
and other waterfowl and beaches frequented by marine turtles for egg 
laying. The Yala wildlife sanctuary is also located on the south coast 
while some of the coral reefs of Sri Lanka may be eventually impacted 
by oil. 

An Environmental Impact Assesment for the proposed project is being 
prepared by  the developers, 
Regional Cooperative Petroleum Refinery Co Inc., and will be opened 
for public comment in due course. 


Rohan H. Wickramasinghe,  
November 01, 1995 
Institute for Tropical Environmental Studies, 
41 Flower Road, 
Colombo 7, 
Sri Lanka 

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