THE Tema Oil Refinery (TOR) has begun full operations following the successful completion of repair works one week ahead of schedule.
The Crude Distillation Unit (CDU) which processes 45,000 barrels of crude oil a day, was re-started yesterday after it had been shut down during the fire oubtreak at the Tema PSC Shipyard and Drydock on Good Friday, March 25, 2005, which claimed 17 lives.
TOR's pipelines, which discharge crude oil and other products to the refinery and its pump station which pumps seawater to cool its plants at the refinery, were destroyed by the fire disaster.
As a result of the destruction of its pump house, TOR workers immediately began laying pipelines at the refinery to pump freshwater to cool the CDU which had then been shut down due to the damaged pump house at the drydock area.
Prior to the completion, TOR had given the assurance that repair works on the damaged pipelines and construction of new pipelines at the refinery to pump freshwater to cool the CDU would take three weeks. It had also stated that the national strategic stock for TOR and the Bulk Oil Storage and Transportation Limited (BOST) would last six to seven weeks. That implied there was enough stock to meet local demand before construction works were completed.
Additionally, the Residual Fluidised Catalytic Cracking (RFCC) Plant was started a few days after the fire disaster as part of measures instituted by TOR to curb any form of fuel shortage in the country.
An oil vessel called Ocean Liberty last Friday berthed at the Tema Harbour to discharge 30,000 tonnes of diesel to augment available stock for the local market. The Managing Director of the TOR, Dr K. K. Sarpong, at a news conference in Tema last Friday after reporters had toured TOR's facilities at the harbour and the refinery to assess the completion of work, said, “We took advantage of the closure of the CDU during the fire disaster to do minor works”.
The CDU, which processes 45,000 barrels of crude oil a day, was shut down immediately the fire broke out at the PSC Shipyard and Drydock to prevent the fire from spreading to the refinery to destroy installations.
Dr Sarpong gave the assurance that the cost of damages would be recovered because the TOR had adequate insurance cover.
He explained that TOR's underwriters, both local and overseas, had assessed the extent of damage and were yet to submit their report.
According to Dr Sarpong, TOR's rejuvenation programme would continue unabated, adding, “The lessons learnt from the incident are quiet tremendous. We will build on that to ensure our operations become a landmark for other organisations to emulate”.
The managing director, on behalf of the board and management of TOR, thanked the staff, contractors and all who contributed in diverse ways to bring the situation under control.
He also thanked the media for the support it lent TOR during and after the disaster, adding that although some reports were not balanced, TOR would continue to work closely with the media for national development.
Earlier at the Tema port, the Deputy Managing Director in charge of Engineering and Production of TOR, Dr Ali Abugre, said 500 metres of TOR's pipelines were destroyed during the fire outbreak.
He said TOR was currently assessing the cost of maintaining the damaged pump house and the use of freshwater to cool the plants and make a final decision on which one to finally adopt.
According to eye witness accounts, the fire started at about 9.00 a.m. on Good Friday when sparks from welding works being carried out on a fishing vessel, MV Bolaris, at the PSC Shipyard and Drydock set the pipelines that conveyed crude oil to TOR ablaze.
Within hours, the fire had destroyed almost everything within a 500-meter radius, including the Volta Aluminium Company Limited (VALCO) conveyor belt, the building housing Kiku Cold Store and Dolphins Fishing Company.
Firemen from the Ghana National Fire Service (GNFS), the TOR Fire Brigade, the Ghana Ports and Harbours Fire Brigade, the Ghana Armed Forces (GAF), the police and the Ghana Ports Authority and Harbours (GPHA) and the Ghana Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) responded to distressed calls to put out the fire.
Relatives and friends of the victims, port workers and some members of the public looked on helplessly, while the combined team of fire fighters frantically tried to put out the flames.
Three persons who were also working on the vessel, however, escaped, apparently because they had been sent ashore to bring some items.
A seven-member committee headed by the immediate past Inspector-General of Police, Nana Owusu-Nsiah, has been tasked by the government to look into the causes of the fire and come up with recommendations on the next line of action to be taken to forestall future occurrences.