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People working for BP in Geel should go home in the same health they arrived at work.

BP in Geel has its own industrial medical service. Its main task is preventative: averting accidents, illnesses, stress ...


BP in Geel produces benzene as a by-product of paraxylene production (PX). 

Benzene - standards

What standards are imposed by the authorities? Quantities put into perspective ...


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.



Notification limit

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'.



More about OPSIS



A lot or not? Numbers in perspective

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  
Rural environment 0.5

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)

Road junction 2.7
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

Benzene - prevention

A sample of measures taken by BP to prevent maximally benzene leaks
  • In case of pressure build-up, venting to the flare is possible where benzene will be burnt safely.
  • Equipment such as vessels and pumps are cleaned via a closed draining system to make sure that the organic components are channelled through conduits into one big closed container. The gasses of this container are flared off and thus not released into the atmosphere.
  • Pumps are equipped with double seals. In case of a failing first seal, the second provides adequate containment ensuring that the pump can be taken out of service safely.
  • Moving valves have special spindle seals.
  • The benzene storage tank is equipped with an inside floating roof, a flat cover with sealing rings all around. This limits the space between fluid and remaining volume of the tank thereby suppressing evaporation.
  • Gasses given off whilst loading are transferred to a unit where they are decomposed into CO2 by incineration.
  • Finally, strict procedures are in place for every task, including stringent compliance monitoring. 

Benzene - monitoring emissions

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. 

1. Personla Badge

People who work in the PX unit wear a sort of badge, which registers their personal exposure.

2. Benzene detectors

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.

3. Regular extractive measurementsD

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.

5. External monitoring (VITO and VMM)D

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.