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Refinery could be out of action for weeks, costing Valero millions

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THE FALLOUT from Friday’s disruption to the national electricity supply across many parts of the UK will be serious for Pembrokeshire’s oil refinery.

Pembroke Refinery – owned by Valero – can refine up to 220,000 barrels of oil per day.

Along with 900,000 other electricity users in the UK, it suffered a complete power failure on August 9.

A source close to the plant told The Herald that screens in the control room went blank and refinery operators were forced to shut down manually.

During the incident there were large flare offs at the site and black smoke could be seen from the stacks.

There was a strong smell of oil in the air reported by nearby residents.

Despite Valero’s official spokesperson saying on Friday that the company did not comment on operational matters, another source told this newspaper that the power outage had knocked the fluid catalytic cracker offline, and that it would likely take a number of weeks for the refinery to get back to normal operations.

Our source said: “This is going to cost Valero millions of pounds. Everyone is very tight lipped at the present time, but I expect that there will be a big meeting on Monday – I understand that there are colleagues flying in from Texas.

“With the refinery out of action some ships may be forced to leave Milford Haven without any cargo.”

Our source told us: “I know that there is at least one ship waiting, on berth three I think, to load up with alkylate, but with the cracker down this won’t be happening.”

In 2017 a power outage and resulting smoke at a Valero Energy Corp refinery forced residents to remain indoors for several hours in Benicia, California. According to local news media reports at the time, black smoke from the refinery, also caused traffic to back up on Interstate 680 and forced evacuations from the industrial park where the plant is located. Orders to remain indoors and evacuate the industrial park had been lifted by noon. Two people were treated for respiratory distress.

Electrical disruptions and power failures at refineries often cause immense damage in terms of lost production, excessive repair costs, environmental impact and safety concerns. Electrical power is the lifeblood of the refinery and plant operation. An individual incident can run losses into millions of dollars a day. In 2012, the Phillips 66 refinery in New Jersey was down for 23 days. They estimated the lost revenue was over $650 million US Dollars.
The Government says it plans to launch an investigation into the major power cut. The blackout also brought travel chaos to the rail network and affected the power supply to Newcastle Airport and Ipswich Hospital.

Power had to be restored to more than 900,000 customers after what National Grid Electricity System Operator said was the almost simultaneous loss of two large generators.

Andrea Leadsom, Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, said Friday’s power outage had caused “enormous disruption”.
She added: “National Grid must urgently review and report to Ofgem.
“I will also be commissioning the Government’s Energy Emergencies Executive Committee to consider the incident.”

The committee will look at whether National Grid, which manages the electricity supply system, stuck to its processes and procedures and if these were fit-for-purpose.

It will also examine if there were technical performance issues in the country’s power system, the efficiency of communications around the incident and how power demand was restored.

National Grid said it would seek to “understand the lessons learned” from the incident, while energy regulator Ofgem called for an “urgent detailed report” on what went wrong.
Duncan Burt, operations director at National Grid, said the power cut was an “incredibly rare event”, but back-up systems had “worked well” in response.

He explained that automatic processes triggered by the loss of the two generators had temporarily disconnected electrical demand across the country to “help keep the rest of the system safe”.

Valero have been contacted for a further comment.

Education

Styling their way to the top

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(Left to right) Level 2 - Festival theme - work by Holly Mathias and Celebration of Colour - Level 2 and 3 – work by Leah Rees

FOUR hairdressing learners: Holly Mathias, Jenna Kilgallon, Helaina Thomas and Leah Rees, recently earned themselves a place in the next stage of the Concept Hair Magazine Learner of the Year Competition.

The candidates were invited into the College to show their fully presented entries as evidence and then submitted them remotely to the Concept Hair Magazine judges in December.

The categories for the competition were: Festival Hair, Red Carpet, Old School Barbershop, Celebration of Colour and Safari.

The unique styles allowed the learners to show off their creative hair styling skills from plaits to updos, to bold colour creations.

Charlotte Jones, Hairdressing lecturer was over the moon with the learners’ success; “We were all so impressed with the creativity, dedication and enthusiasm of all the students who took part in the competition. Also, the students who supported the entries during the day and the models who gave up their time to be involved. They should all be very proud of what they have achieved. The results were amazing!”

The students worked to COVID regulations ensuring all the correct PPE and procedures were followed.

Finalist, Holly Mathias entered three categories which included; Styling Level 2 – Festival Theme, Hair Up Level 2 – Red Carpet and Avant Garde – Safari.

Holly shared her experience; “Taking part in the Concept Hair competition, has really boosted my confidence and proved that hard work really does pay off. The support from the staff at Pembrokeshire College is outstanding. I would recommend everyone to take part in this competition as not only is it an amazing experience, but it really allows you to think outside the box and be as creative as you can! I would 100% take part in this competition again.”

Holly plans to go into full-time employment when she completes her course and hopes to one day work on cruise ships or even own her own salon.

The next stage involves the candidates submitting photographic entries on the 12th March where six will be shortlisted for the national finals which is set to take place virtually in April.

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Community

Environmental projects supported by Park Authority’s Sustainable Development Fund

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PROJECTS involving worm composting, community planting and solar panels were just some of the projects that recently received support from the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority’s Sustainable Development Fund.

More than £140,000 was awarded to eight projects at the committee’s January meeting with the next deadline for applications set for 12 noon on 23 March.

Clynfyw Care Farm was successful with an application for a vermicomposting project, which will create a quality rich sustainable compost that can be used to improve soil conditions organically. This will support local vegetable producers and sequestrate carbon in the process.

The Newport Area Environment Group will receive funding to lead a community planting project promoting decarbonisation through biodiversity.

Cwm Arian Renewable Energy secured financial support to research a Pembrokeshire-wide Energy Efficiency program, with the aim of reducing energy use and tackling fuel poverty by increasing and normalising the uptake of low carbon life choices.

Funding for photovoltaic (PV) panels was agreed for projects submitted by Herbrandston Sports and Recreation Association, South Ridgeway Community Association, Neuadd Gymuned Bwlchygroes Community Hall, Ramsey Island Nature resort and Visitor Centre, and Crymych Rugby club, who all received funding to help harness solar energy.

Directors from Clynfyw Care Farm said: “Thanks to funding from SDF, this worm composting project will be a useful tool for engaging with people, reducing CO2 and teaching a simple sustainable process with important stages in a safe, supported environment. Once established, vermicompost will be available for purchase in local outlets, providing an environmentally-friendly alternative for local growers.”

Applications for funding are encouraged from not for profit groups, including village halls, community councils and environmental groups in the county who have a project that will contribute towards a reduction in carbon and help respond to the climate emergency.

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News

Council: Despite a rise Pembrokeshire still has lowest council tax in Wales

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PEMBROKESHIRE COUNTY COUNCILLORS have voted to back a recommendation of a 3.75 percent increase in Council Tax for the coming year.

The increase equates to an extra 82p per week for Band D properties.

Pembrokeshire will still have the lowest Council Tax in Wales with Pembrokeshire Band D Council Tax payers paying £214.11, or £4.11 per week, less than the average across the country.

Cllr Bob Kilmister, the Cabinet Member for Finance, said the increase had been reduced from a proposed 5 per cent to 3.75 per cent to reduce the impact on Council Tax payers.

Introducing the budget to members, Cllr Kilmister said to go for a figure below 3.75 per cent would inevitably lead to much higher rises in future years.

Falling below 3.75 per cent would also lead to cuts in Council services, Cllr Kilmister said.

He added: “A reduction in services and staff numbers will affect the poorest in our communities the most. I believe we have a duty to these people.”

Councillors also voted for Council house rents to be increased by 1.5% for the coming year plus increases of up to 50p per week where properties are not at target rent levels.

The votes were taken at the full meeting of Pembrokeshire County Council held on Thursday, March 4.

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