As sub-Saharan Africa’s largest oil producer, Angola has seen the application of world class waste management standards in its oil and gas sector. International mining consultancy firm, SRK Consulting, has been involved in landfill design and environmental impact assessments (EIA) in Angola for almost 20 years, according to Bruce Engelsman, Principal Engineer at SRK Consulting.
“Most of the waste from the offshore platforms comprises drill cuttings, which emanate from many kilometers of offshore exploration drilling,” said Engelsman, adding that, “These have to be brought ashore, treated and disposed of responsibly, especially to manage the hydrocarbon content in this waste stream.”
A specialist firm in the country then treats these cuttings by extracting the oil using the latest Danish thermal desorption technology, after which the material can be sent to landfill. There is also hazardous waste from offshore and onshore facilities that is incinerated and general domestic waste which is landfilled. In line with best practice and Angolan regulations, emissions emanating from treatment are scrubbed and monitored as part of closely managed waste disposal.
Environmental protection principles are embedded in the country’s constitution, which highlights that the Angola “shall promote the protection and conservation of natural resources guiding the exploitation and use thereof for the benefit of the community as a whole”. It also gives all citizens the right to “live in a healthy and unpolluted environment” and requires the State to “take the requisite measures to protect the environment and national species of flora and fauna … and maintain ecological balance.”
Engelsman explained that Angola has several main service hubs to support its oil and gas sector. One is Luanda, with its extensive port facilities, and the other is in the far north at Soyo – on the Congo River.
“These sites boast total waste management solutions that use leading-edge technology,” stated Engelsman. “The treated residue is deposited in landfill facilities designed by SRK, ensuring that best international practice is applied regarding environmental and social impact. The total design includes the cells themselves, groundwater monitoring, roads and other infrastructure.”
To ensure a high standard of design, SRK Consulting has, in the past, applied the minimum requirements from South Africa’s Department of Water and Sanitation, with Angola, in recent years, also beginning to develop its own regulations – especially regarding characterization of waste.
This developing legal landscape for waste management requires, for instance, more detailed investigation of leachable characteristics as well as the total concentration of contaminant of concern in the waste. Two streams of testing are therefore conducted – one for the leachable concentrations and another for total concentrations. Based on the outcome of these tests, there are restrictions on what materials can enter the landfill.
“Our extensive experience in waste management in South Africa – in the field of tailings dams, for example – equips us very well for these projects,” said Engelsman. “Tailings waste has to be classified to assess whether a lining is required under the facility – a decision with significant cost implications.”
The Cacuaco facility in Angola’s Luanda Province, with which SRK Consulting has been involved for 15 years, is nearing the end of its life. After closure, operations will move to the Viana District in the Bengo Province, on which the firm is currently busy with design work.
“We partner with a local firm of professionals to conduct the Environmental Impact Assessments, including high-tech work such as air emissions modelling. The recommendations from the EIAs are then incorporated into our designs,” continued Engelsman.
Angolan municipalities also face a considerable challenge dealing with waste from residents and local businesses, and SRK Consulting has recently become involved in feasibility studies in this segment.
“Cities like Luanda have struggled for many years to manage the rapid urbanization from the war years, when people flocked to cities for safety,” stated Engelsman, concluding. “For instance, Luanda reportedly produces some 6,000 tons of solid waste every day, and its infrastructure was not developed to cope with such volumes.”
Angola continues to develop its waste management capacity with partner agencies. In 2019, the United Nations Environmental Program – through its Chemicals and Waste Management Program – launched an ambitious three-year project in Angola, focused on establishing a sustainable and integrated national structure to better manage chemicals. The strategy has been coordinated by the Angola Ministry of Environment, through a National Chemicals Management Unit. This works towards implementation of the project, and ensures that Angola can continue to manage chemicals and hazardous wastes into the future.