CEPSA's oil refinery in Santa Cruz
The tourist brochures are right - Santa Cruz is unique. After all, how many other cities of over 100,000 inhabitants can boast a big oil refinery slap bang in the centre? The plant is already over 70 years old yet there is no sign of putting it out to grass (or even giving it a decent burial). The refinery is surrounded on three sides by densely populated districts (the tanker haven lies on the fourth side). However, the situation is just as bad when one looks at Santa Cruz as a whole. The city stretches out along a peninsular shaped a bit like an elephant's trunk. It is flanked on two sides by the sea and hemmed in on the landward side by the Las Mesas-Los Campitos-Anaga mountain range. The only two feasible evacuation routes out of the city are the north and south highways - both of which run along the boundary walls of the CEPSA oil refinery! Put bluntly, the city is a rat trap - a major refinery fire would turn the city into a sea of flames and cause appalling loss of life.
The inhabitants of Santa Cruz have become used to living next to this powder keg - something those in European cities do not have endure. It is all too easy to forget that millions of tons of petroleum products are processed at high temperatures and pressures and then stored just a few dozen yards from our homes. Many of the products, such as Liquid Petroleum Gas and hydrogen, are explosive and/or highly flammable.
That is why we sincerely hope:
- ... that our politicians wake up to the situation instead of trying to make us ignore the danger under our very noses. We also hope that the EU will take a hand in the matter and force Spain to take public safety seriously. In this respect, Spain treats Tenerife like a Third World colony - with examples like this, it is no wonder the Gibraltans would rather remain part of Britain!
- ... that there are no sparks, lightning strikes, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, mistakes by the refinery staff, equipment failures, air crashes, terrorist attacks, clashes with Morocco, etc.
- ... that there are no leaks of inflammable substances, and no petrol leaks in the hundreds of kilometres of underground pipelines running under Santa Cruz as far as the eastern breakwater, or explosions in vessels being loaded/unloaded in the port area.
- ... that our leaders get round to telling the people in Santa Cruz how on earth we could evacuate the city in the event of a refinery fire [a speaker at the 2nd Conference of Spanish Cities with Petrochemical Industries - which was held a couple of years ago and sponsored by CEPSA - stated at the press conference that the inhabitants of Santa Cruz had no idea of what to do in an emergency].
- ... that the Santa Cruz city council re-zones the industrial land around the refinery and commits no more blunders like allowing the building of 34-storey blocks of flats, a large hotel, two major department stores, and a 900-metre long 3-lane tunnel just yards from the refinery. Instead, the council could try siting more parks, sports grounds, and gardens in the area.
- ... that CEPSA (a foreign-owned company with a majority French-Arab stake) takes its refining operations somewhere else (after years of making record profits from this geriatric plant and exposing generations of Santa Cruz residents to pollution and enormous risks).
- ... that a date is set for dismantling this ageing refinery (preferably before the dawn of the 22nd century).
It is high time this ticking time bomb was defused and removed from our midst.
- Smoke, oil spills and now radiation - whatever next? 1/9/2004