An update from the QAL General Manager
Welcome to the first QAL Quarterly update to be featured in Gladstone News.
I am pleased to be partnering with the QAL Community Advisory Committee. Their first advice to me was that I need to better communicate with the Gladstone community about QAL and the challenges and opportunities we have ahead of us.
As you’ve probably heard, QAL continues to be challenged by unprecedented market lows, and we are doing everything we can to ensure the refinery can continue to operate sustainably into the future. In response we have developed a plan which will see us r apidly reduce our costs. This cannot be done without the support of our employees, suppliers and our community. The safety and health of our people is our highest priority as w e work to ensure the plant remains a stable and reliable operation – this includes honouring our commitments to the environment and our community.
During the first Community Advisory Committee meeting, a resident explained that he is unable to have a barbeque in his backyard because of the smell of QAL. This comment stayed with me after the meeting because it made me realise we have been focusing on licence compliance rather than the impact on the liveability of our surrounding community members. I understand this type of impact is just not acceptable and action needs to be taken. Currently the Community Advisory Committee is working with QAL to understand and develop sustainable solutions and reduce our impact on the community.
QAL is committed to making significant changes to address these issues. Along the way, we will keep you informed of our progress as we work towards reducing our impacts on community liveability. My hope is that, over time, we can address the concerns raised about our operation as we open up a conversation with the wider Gladstone community.
WHAT IF YOU WENT TO WORK AND SOMEONE POINTED OUT THAT YOU SMELT A BIT OFF? WHAT IF YOU COULD HAVE YOUR OWN PERSONAL DEVICE THAT LET YOU KNOW BEFORE YOUR FELLOW CO-WORKERS TOLD YOU?
QAL is doing just that, but instead of detecting a spike in personal body odour, it’s detecting refinery odour! We will shortly commence an ‘E-Nose’ trial. This device will measure smells continuously in real-time and will notify QAL of different patterns relating to odour so we can further investigate and gain more insight into odour patterns and the connection with our process. The ‘E-Nose’ consists of a range of fast acting chemical sensors which will register an increase in odour and then send an SMS back to the QAL team alerting to any abnormal patterns.
Look out for results of the trial in our next update!
In all honesty, attending a meeting with QAL was not something I thought would benefit me. For years we have been complaining about QAL damaging our personal property, stinking out our houses and covering our belongings with dust. You can understand why we were not impressed when asked to come to a meeting with the QAL management team.
In the first Community Advisory meeting we shocked QAL with the amount of QAL-related issues we have continuously been putting up with. Our committee was not quiet and did not sugar-coat the situation. QAL needed to hear how we were being impacted and we told the QAL team exactly what issues needed addressing.
After working with QAL they have shown us they are now taking responsibility for their actions and are demonstrating change. We have asked QAL to better communicate and share their plans, success and challenges with the community. Together our committee and the QAL team have now committed to improving the engagement with the wider community. We felt publishing this quarterly update in Gladstone News would help inform Gladstone residents and we hope it will create more understanding of what is being done by QAL to address impacts.
You’ll hear more from QAL through a number of different channels, so keep a look out for further updates.
ON JUNE 10 2015, A RELEASE OF ALKALI FROM QAL HAD A SIGNIFICANT IMPACT ON THE LOCAL COMMUNITY. THIS TYPE OF EVENT WAS ABSOLUTELY UNACCEPTABLE AND WE IMMEDIATELY APOLOGISED FOR WHAT HAD OCCURRED.
We worked hard to publicise details of the alkali release event dropping letters to homes and businesses in the affected area as well as alerting the media and the wider community through advertising and various updates. Many of our neighbours were impacted and naturally had concerns about a range of matters, including their health and physical impacts to their property. During the first few days, one of our highest priorities was to let everyone know what had occurred, that there was no health risk as a result of the event, and how the business planned to respond. We then commenced a six month project to ensure the remediation of each resident’s assets was completed to a high standard.
In the following months approximately 800 alkali complaints were received and managed to closure. These were processed by QAL employees to ensure each claim was dealt
with fairly and that the claimant was dealing directly with QAL representatives.
HOW DID THE ALKALI RELEASE OCCUR?
During a planned swap of a digester vessel in the Digestion section of the plant, scale blocked the outlet of the tank causing the safety relief system to activate.
The liquor flow into the vessel vented through the relief system into the atmospheric relief tank. The three entrainment separators on top of the tank were unable to capture all of the liquor flow resulting in a discharge of alkaline material to atmosphere.
WHAT HAVE WE DONE TO ADDRESS THIS FAILURE?
QAL responded quickly to this alkali release, and a Project was approved and rapidly put into action to install nine new entrainment separators onto the three Digestion units. The new entrainment separators incorporate the latest design and have been successfully used in other operations. Due to the fast response of the teams within QAL the upgrade was completed in April.
To gauge the success of the entrainment separator upgrade in Digestion, an alkali monitoring study using alkali detection pads was conducted before, during and after the installation. The pads have been soaked in a pH colour indicator called phenolphthalein. If an alkali particle comes into contact with the pad, the colour of the spot will change to bright pink. The examination of these results help QAL to see the improvements this upgrade has had on alkali emissions. This monitoring system also allows the environment team to understand if the system is performing to the best of its ability and if certain modifications need to be put into place.
QAL WANTS TO HEAR FROM ANYONE CONCERNED ABOUT AN IMPACT FROM THE OPERATION. WHETHER ITS ODOUR, DUST, ALKALI OR NOISE, WE RECOGNISE THAT OUR COMMUNITY SHOULD BE ABLE TO PROVIDE FEEDBACK AND LODGE A CONCERN AT ANY TIME OF THE DAY AND NIGHT – NOT JUST DURING BUSINESS HOURS.
If you have a concern you would like addressed please register your residence or business at www.rocs.qal.com.au
or phone the community hotline
on 1800 181 110.
REGISTERING IN ROCS IS REALLY EASY AT WWW.ROCS.QAL.COM.AU
When registered, you’ll gain access to the system and will receive updates on the work we’re doing which may impact you. You can also rate QAL’s performance every six months to provide us with honest feedback about our operation.