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Managing waste in Angola’s oil sector

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Angola has several main service hubs to support its oil and gas sector, boasting total waste management solutions (Image: Unsplash)

Managing waste in Angola’s oil sector

As sub-Saharan Africa’s second-largest oil producer, Angola has seen the application of world class waste management standards in its oil and gas sector.

Most of the waste from the offshore platforms comprises drill cuttings, which emanate from many kilometres of offshore exploration drilling.

According to Bruce Engelsman, principal engineer at SRK Consulting, these have to be brought ashore, treated and disposed of responsibly, especially to manage the hydrocarbon content in this waste stream.

A specialist Angolan firm treats these cuttings extracting the oil in the cuttings using the latest Danish thermal desorption technology before the material can be sent to landfill.

There is also hazardous waste from offshore and onshore facilities that is incinerated, and general domestic waste which is landfilled. In line with best practice and Angolan regulations, emissions emanating from treatment are scrubbed and monitored as part of closely managed waste disposal.

Environmental protection in the constitution (Managing waste in Angola’s oil sector)

Environmental protection principles are embedded in the country’s constitution[1], which highlights that the State “shall promote the protection and conservation of natural resources guiding the exploitation and use thereof for the benefit of the community as a whole”. It also gives all citizens the right to “live in a healthy and unpolluted environment” and requires the State to “take the requisite measures to protect the environment and national species of flora and fauna … and maintain ecological balance”.

According to Engelsman Angola has several main service hubs to support its oil and gas sector. “One is Luanda with its extensive port facilities, and the other is in the far north at Soyo – on the Congo River.

“These sites boast total waste management solutions that use leading-edge technology,” says Engelsman.

“The treated residue is deposited in landfill facilities designed by SRK Consulting, ensuring that best international practice is applied regarding environmental and social impact. The total design includes the cells themselves, groundwater monitoring, roads, and other infrastructure,” Engelsman explains.

Incorporating all the standards (Managing waste in Angola’s oil sector)

“To ensure a high standard of design, SRK has in the past applied the minimum requirements from South Africa’s Department of Water and Sanitation. In recent years, Angola also began developing its own regulations – especially regarding characterisation of waste – so we incorporate these too,” says Engelsman.

This developing legal landscape for waste management requires, for instance, more detailed investigation of leachable characteristics as well as the total concentration of contaminant of concern in the waste.

Two streams of testing are therefore conducted – one for the leachable concentrations and another for total concentrations. Based on the outcome of these tests, there are restrictions on what materials can enter the landfill.

“Our extensive experience in waste management in South Africa – in the field of tailings dams, for example – equips us very well for these projects,” says Engelsman.

“Tailings waste has to be classified to assess whether a lining is required under the facility – a decision with significant cost implications.”

Recommendations in design (Managing waste in Angola’s oil sector)

The Cacuaco facility, with which SRK has been involved for 15 years, is nearing the end of its life. After closure, operations will move to Bengo in the Viana district, on which SRK is currently busy with design work.

“We partner with a local firm of professionals to conduct the Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs), including high-tech work such as air emissions modelling,” explains Engelsman.

“The recommendations from the EIAs are then incorporated into our designs.”

Angolan municipalities also face a considerable challenge dealing with waste from residents and local businesses, and SRK has recently become involved in feasibility studies in this segment.

“Cities like Luanda have struggled for many years to manage the rapid urbanisation from the war years, when people flocked to cities for safety,” he says.

“For instance, Luanda reportedly produces some 6,000 tonnes of solid waste every day, and its infrastructure was not developed to cope with such volumes.”

The country continues to develop its waste management capacity with partner agencies. In 2019, the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) – through its Chemicals and Waste Management Programme – launched an ambitious three-year project[2] in Angola, focused on establishing a sustainable and integrated national structure to better manage chemicals.

The strategy has been coordinated by the Angola Ministry of Environment, through a National Chemicals Management Unit. This works towards implementation of the project and ensure that Angola can continue to manage chemicals and hazardous wastes into the future.

Bruce Engelsman, principal engineer at SRK Consulting. Image credit: SRK Consulting

Managing waste in Angola’s oil sector

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Managing waste in Angola’s oil sector

[1] https://energycapitalpower.com/angolas-oil-and-gas-industry-can-thrive-alongside-its-rich-biodiversity/

[2] https://www.unep.org/news-and-stories/story/partnering-strengthen-chemicals-and-waste-management-angola

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