BP in Geel has its own industrial medical service. Its main task is preventative: averting accidents, illnesses, stress ...
The Belgian Arbeidsinspectie (Labour Inspectorate) takes 3200 micrograms benzene per cubic metre as the maximum amount permitted at the workplace. Scientists assume that exposure to this amount of benzene during an 8-hour working day in the course of a normal career bears no risk to employees' health.
BP continually monitors benzene emissions around the PX unit by means of OPSIS. BP has agreed with the authorities that it will inform the Belgian Milieu-inspectie (Environmental Inspectorate) and a number of public bodies if the system measures a value of more than 100 micrograms per cubic metre and this for more than 30 minutes. This '100 micrograms per cubic metre' is referred to as the 'notification limit'.
To put the figure of 100 into perspective, an overview is given below of typical benzene concentrations.
|All figures are expressed in micrograms per cubic metre|
Winkelomheide (VITO or VMM measurements after start-up
of PX unit - near the church)
|Typical urban environment||1.0
Eindhout (VITO or VMM measurements after start-up
of PX unit - Berthoutstraat 2)
|Inside the PX unit during normal operation||5 to 10|
|Smoky environment||up to 35
|Driving through a tunnel||up to 40
|Notification limit for BP in Geel||100
|Permitted by Labour Inspectorate: exposure without risk
during 8-hour working day during normal career
The paraxylene unit was started up in 2000 and it annually produces many tonnes of benzene. Benzene is a by-product of paraxylene production. Benzene is a carcinogen and for this reason BP has installed an extensive monitoring system. This system operates on five levels.
People who work in the PX unit wear a sort of badge, which registers their personal exposure.
The most critical items of equipment in the unit have benzene detectors, which are linked to the control room. Immediate action is taken in the event of excess levels.
Once or twice a year, a specialist company carries out extractive measurements in the PX unit to identify sensitive areas, allowing BP to act preventatively.
Around the paraxylene unit itself, in an area of 250 by 250 meters, OPSIS continually monitors the air for increased emissions of benzene and other substances.
Finally, independent bodies monitor the presence of benzene and other substances in the surrounding area of the factory.
VITO (Flemish Institute for Technological Studies) regularly monitors the air at several locations.
VMM (The Flemish Environment Company) has two permanent measuring stations, one in Eindhout, the other in Winkelomheide . These stations collect air samples once every couple of minutes, all year round, analyse them and forward the results.