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Industry leaders and university experts partner to study impact of chlorine byproducts at Mesaieed

Published Jun 15, 2009

QAFCO and Texas A&M University at Qatar jointly with the Environmental Studies Center at Qatar University today inaugurated a one-year research project to study the environmental impact of cooling water discharge at Mesaieed Industrial City (MIC).

QAFCO initiated and will provide primary funding for the $880,000 project. QAPCO and QP-Gas Operations are also financing this project. The project will be led by Dr. Ahmed Abdel-Wahab and Dr. Patrick Linke from Texas A&M at Qatar and by Dr. Mohsin Al-Ansi from the Environmental Studies Center of Qatar University. A steering committee will advise the project; members include Maryam Mattar (QAFCO), Jassim Almalki (QAPCO), Sajjan Khan (QP-NGL), and Yousef Al Hamar and Dr. Mohamed Abdelmoati (Ministry of Environment). 

Khalifa Abdulla Al-Sowaidi, managing director of QAFCO, said environmental sustainability is of high priority to QAFCO.

“We are working hard to minimize the environmental impact of our operations,” he said. “Also, we are keen to support research activities and work closely with academic institutions in Qatar such as Texas A&M and Qatar University. This project is the best example of mutual collaboration among industry, academic institutions, and the government. It will not only address an environmental issue but it also includes human capacity building through training and technology transfers.

This project will result in developing a scientific framework for sustainable strategies that address the environmental issues of seawater cooling, aid in developing sound regulatory policies, develop human resources in Qatar, and support Qatar’s objective of becoming a world leader in seawater cooling research and a responsible caretaker of the environment.

“Industrial leaders in Qatar such as our partners here from QAFCO, QAPCO and QP-NGL take seriously their obligation of sound environmental stewardship, and Texas A&M at Qatar has invested the energy and resources necessary to conduct research to that end,” said Dr. Mark Weichold, dean and CEO of Texas A&M at Qatar.

Weichold also highlighted the partnership with Qatar University. “Texas A&M at Qatar and Qatar University share many common goals,” Weichold said. “We also are pleased to have Qatar University as part of our research team.

At Texas A&M at Qatar, the research will be conducted by the Qatar Sustainable Water and Energy Utilization Group, Weichold added. “Faculty and researchers are investigating novel and innovative ways to improve the efficiency of industrial processes in Qatar without diminishing this nation's robust industrial expansion and development,” he said. “This growth is closely aligned with the progress of the nation as a whole, and we recognize the need for research support in these areas.”

The Ministry of Environment has issued new environmental standards that are aimed at reducing the environmental impact of industrial cooling water discharge. The new regulations specify that the maximum concentration of free residual chlorine is 0.05 mg/L for discharge of cooling water. The problem of residual chlorine is the formation of chlorination byproducts that are harmful to aquatic life. Key questions are how factors associated with the cooling water system affect the formation of the halogenated compounds and how their concentrations change as the water moves away from the discharge point.

The impetus for this research is local and the project's goals are simple, but the results could be profound and global, Weichold said. As members of this research team seek to understand the nature of chlorine byproducts from industrial processes at Mesaieed Industrial City, they will compile a data set for this problem and develop a model to explain it, he said.

This project will answer research questions of vital interest to Qatar” and this resource will be the first of its kind that will be publicly available anywhere in the world, Weichold added. And we anticipate that it will bring recognition to Qatar because of the regional and global significance of this research.

Dr. Mohd Yousef Al-Mulla, general manager of Qatar Petrochemical Co. (QAPCO), said that as his company is one of the leading petrochemical industries in Qatar, he feels it is part of the QAPCO's duties and responsibilities to ensure that they do everything they could to turn all their operations as environmental friendly as per the requirements of international standards, and to try their best to minimize the environmental impact of their operations and activities.

The research project is, no doubt, a step in the right direction, and therefore, we are giving it all our support and are doing our utmost to make it a success. We are happy to see that the experts from both Texas A & M University, and the Environmental Studies Center of Qatar University, have come together, hand in hand, to work on this project which will not only help the industries and the Ministry of Environment, as such, but the State of Qatar, as a nation, Dr. Al-Mulla said.

Abdel-Wahab said this project would provide both industry and regulators with tools to evaluate the extent of the problem and suggest efficient avenues towards its solution. The findings of this research will impact operations of numerous industries in Qatar and the world, he said. These capabilities will remain in Qatar and provide continuing benefit to the nation in helping to solve problems that are critical to the country while bringing international recognition to Qatar.

Linke said the research team plans to launch capacity-building initiatives to ensure smooth transfer of the project outcomes to partners from government and industry.

We will not only transfer the technologies and tools that will be developed in this project,” he said, “but we also will train the practicing engineers in all important aspects of seawater cooling processes and impacts to ensure our developments will be understood and widely applied by practitioners.

Weichold said this project would bring recognition to Qatar because of the regional and global significance of the proposed research. Efficient use of natural resources, particularly water resources, is critical to Qatar. Cooling water is the primary water use in most locations, so it is a key focus for developing sustainable water systems.

The importance of protecting this resource is seen in the more stringent requirements for cooling water discharges that have been recently established by the Ministry of Environment. Maintaining water quality in the near shore environment is critical to Qatar, because of the use of this water for municipal water supply, Weichold said. I believe we can all agree that water is a resource we cannot take for granted, he said, because it is a resource we cannot be without.