(Image courtesy of Frack Free South Yorkshire)
The INEOS Track Record on Safety and Health
According Jim Ratcliffe, a multi millionaire who wants his company to frack the Sherwood Forest area “a lot of opposition to fracking is based on hearsay and rumour. In the US they have drilled one million wells and not had an environmental incident for six years.” It’s an extraordinary comment when you consider there have been nearly 700 academic articles published since 2009 about fracking, public health and the environment. The overwhelming majority of these studies show potential or actual contamination of water, the air and dangers to public health. Hearsay and rumour this is not – which is why 9 professors of medicine and 9 other senior medical personnel have called for a ban on fracking in the British Medical Journal.
But you’d expect this level of ignorance about the real dangers from Ratcliffe and Ineos. Recent revelations about safety at Ineos Grangemouth show the company has been criticised repeatedly by the Health and Safety Executive for failure to recognise dangers at its refinery – as well as failure to specify what must be done to prevent environmental disasters from leaks, fireballs and explosions. The INEOS Refinery was rated as poor by SEPA under one regime or another in 2010, 2011. 2012 and 2014. They have been criticised for toxic emissions to the atmosphere 4 times in the last 5 years. Before that, between 2005 and 2012, there were 761 breaches of the sulphur dioxide air quality objective. Nor are the dangers merely hypothetical. In one case a worker was left injured by poor design of plant with steam discharged directly into his face, leaving him in danger of falling off a platform he was working on.
It’s not just Grangemouth either. Ineos has been fined for discharges and an accident where basic safety guidelines were ignored at its petrochemical complex Runcorn as well as for emissions that coated an estate with a fine white dust in County Durham. Abroad its record is, if anything, even worse. In 2008 in Germany 1,200 emergency staff spent all night on standby for a potential disaster when a 15 metre high flame from a burst ethylene pipe threatened the breach of a tank containing highly toxic acrylonite. If this had happened a highly toxic cloud could have covered a huge area. The burst pipe was too near to the tank – another safety design fault. In 2014 another explosion at Ineos Cologne sent a black cloud over hundreds of metres into the air.
In the US too INEOS has been fined in 2010 for emission violations by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality with an unauthorised release of 1,913lbs of 1,3-butadiene from a cooling tower. Another fine by the Environmental Protection Agency in 2012 involved importing of toxic substances without giving the required notice. These cases followed earlier legal action by the EPA in 2009 for multiple violations in Addyston, Ohio where an Ineos chemical facility was associated with hazardous air pollutants like acrylontrile, butadiene and styrene. Such was the concern about the danger to the local community that an Elementary School with 370 students had to be relocated because of the risk to school children. Ineos and the former owners of the chemical facility LANXESS Corp. were obliged to pay a $1.3 million civil penalty.
At the time of writing Ineos is sponsoring long distance running by schoolchildren no doubt because Jim Ratcliffe is a keen long distance runner and no doubt too because it shows a tender concern for the health and wellbeing of schoolchildren which is good PR for Ineos. One wonders whether schoolchildren in Nottinghamshire will need to be relocated when fracking gets underway. Certainly the dangers are now well documented in peer reviewed literature. 40 of 46 peer reviewed studies after 2009 show actual or potential negative effects to air quality as a result of fracking – and that is not going to help children’s health no matter how much running they do.http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0154164