Minister of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining, Hon Phillip Paulwell has demanded that the complete Board of Directors of Petrojam Limited meet, investigate and issue a full report into last week's alleged release of noxious fumes from the refinery.
On Wednesday November 14, reports of an offensive chemical-type odour from persons in communities upwind of Petrojam prompted an investigation by the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA). The following day, Petrojam wrote to NEPA confirming that about 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday, November 14, "during site clean-up operations…the liquid contents of a five gallon plastic pail were released on to the ground" and that "a pungent odour was noted in the area of the spill".
The NEPA report, released on Friday, identified the refinery, located on Marcus Garvey Drive in Kingston as the source of the odour, but did not identify the liquid spilled.
Minister Paulwell, who returned at the weekend from a meeting of regional energy Ministers in Lima, Peru, expressed “grave concern”about safety and security practices at Petrojam, as this report of fumes emanating from the refinery is the second such this year.
In June, a section of the Portmore leg of Highway 2000 was closed following reports of a “noxious odour”that NEPA later suggested originated at Petrojam. About the same time, Petrojam reported that some 260 barrels of kerosene oil was unaccounted for, and announced an investigation into a possible security breach.
Following the June incident, Minister Paulwell instructed the board of Petrojam to create a security plan that includes support from the Jamaica Defence Force. A full presentation of that plan was made to the to Minister, who recommended that aspects of the plan be revised and resubmitted.
Minister Paulwell also echoed concerns of his Cabinet colleague, Minister of Land Waster, Environment and Climate Change, Hon Robert Pickersgill, who questioned why a full report was not made by Petrojam to NEPA about the incident on Wednesday when it happened.
“This is unacceptable, and I expect the full board, representing all shareholders to investigate and take immediate action,”Minister Paulwell said.
Petrojam, the island’s sole oil refinery, supplies a full range of petroleum products to the domestic market. Jamaica, though the Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica (PCJ) owns 51 per cent of shares in Petrojam, and PDVCaribe, a subsidiary of the national oil company of the government of Venezuela, owns 49 percent.
Olivia Leigh Campbell