Kuwait Environmental Remediation Program (KERP) : Roadmap to Benefits of Remediation Standard Revision
The State of Kuwait is located in the north-east corner of the Arabian Peninsula. The Kuwait desert was severely damaged by the detonation and destruction of oil wells and associated infrastructure at the hands of Iraqi troops during the 1990-1991 Gulf War. These activities resulted in the release of large volumes of crude oil into the environment affecting approximately 114 square kilometres of the desert terrain. The resultant environmental damage was caused through (i) airborne transmission of crude oil, (ii) overland flow of crude oil forming vast oil lakes and (iii) construction of contaminated piles of soil utilized in oilfield firefighting activities. The environmental and ecological impact was evidenced in the immediate and longer-term deaths of plants and animals and the potential threat of pollution to Kuwait’s precious fresh groundwater resources. The United Nations Compensation Commission (UNCC), Kuwait National Focal Point (KNFP) and Kuwait Oil Company (KOC) are cooperating in a joint project known as the Kuwait Environmental Remediation Program (KERP) to undertake comprehensive and collaborative remediation of the contaminated land that has an estimated volume in the region of 26 million m3. The environmental regulator, Kuwait Environmental Public Authority (KEPA) initially set the remediation target criteria (RTC) to a precautionary 0.5% total petroleum hydrocarbons (TPH) for the treatment of contaminated soil. However, within the context of an industrial environmental setting, KOC realised that the required RTC was stringent compared to similar international oil and gas settings and decided to conduct various studies to determine if the RTC could be revised to a concentration that would not adversely affect human health or the wider environment, specifically within the fenced oilfields. Consequently, KOC conducted a risk based assessment, to international standards, developing an initial Conceptual Site Model (CSM) to review contaminant-pathway-receptor pollutant linkages and then modelling risks to human health, ecological and groundwater, utilizing available site specific data. The outcome of this study identified human health and ecology as the most vulnerable receptors with minimal to no risks to groundwater. KOC conducted an additional study relating to risks to existing ecology (fauna and flora) in the oilfields. This study derived an Alternative Ecotoxicity Remediation Standard of 1% TPH to replace the initially approved Primary Ecotoxicity Remediation Standard. Finally, KOC was submitted to KEPA all of the risk based studies, the outcomes and to revise RTC to 1% TPH. Consequently, KEPA has diligently reviewed and agreed on the new remediation standard of 1% TPH (Hexane Extractable Material). The steps taken for revising the RTC from 0.5 % (former) to 1% TPH will result in the significant reduction of remediation treatment durations and consequential cost savings, thereby providing scope to employ additional technologies to more efficiently achieve the global remediation goal.
Keywords - Contaminated Soil, Risk based Approach, Remediation, and Total Petroleum Hydrocarbons(TPH).