Pollution caused by Nato air raids on Serbian oil refineries and chemical sites could be minimised by more accurate bombing, industry experts have claimed.
`Selectively destroying critical components of a refinery, such as on-site power plants or other essential utility systems, would render a plant inoperable with the minimum damage to process lines,’ said Jim Bonini, a process engineer with a major oil and gas design contractor.
Military experts believe such accuracy is theoretically possible using current technology.
Nato has been bombing Serbian installations in an attempt to starve the country’s armed forces of fuel and material supplies. The Serbian government claims fires have been producing toxins such as phosgene, a component of nerve gas.
A fire at a fertiliser or fine chemical factory could produce phosgene, but not a fire at an oil refinery, The Engineer has been told. Likely pollutants from an oil plant include unburnt liquids such as naphtha, gasoline and diesel, and combustion products such as soot, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and sulphur dioxide.
Some chemicals produced at refineries, such as benzene and toluene, are carcinogenic and pose a significant health risk if released.
So far, Nato has targeted Serbia’s two refineries at Pancevo and Novi Sad. Pancevo also has a polypropylene plant. Chemical plants on the hit-list include Milan Blagojevic in Lucani, which produces nitrocellulose and rocket fuel.
Bombing a refinery without causing environmental damage is `some feat’, said Bonini. Any explosion could have a knock-on effect, causing other plant items to explode or rupture.
Targeting utilities, such as the instrument air generating plant, cooling water or steam supplies, would shut an installation down. Control rooms are meant to be blast-proof, but a hit could bring unpredictable results if emergency systems were not properly designed.
But experts agree the best option would be to destroy a site’s power plant.