Trees that protect the environment

Trees that decontaminate pollutants from the soil, thereby improving the environment. That may sound a little like science fiction, but it is the truth. At the furthest point of Oljehamnen [the Oil Port] in Malmö, the trees also add some greenery to an otherwise bleak environment.

A lot has been happening in the environmental area at Oljehamnen in recent years. The planting of carefully selected poplar and willow trees forms one element of a comprehensive strategic plan to improve the environment. If pollutants were to seep out into the groundwater, the trees would help decontaminate the water by absorbing the oil. The procedure is called phyto-decontamination.

“Thanks to our very strict safety requirements, no leaks have occurred. On the contrary, groundwater samples out here show that the levels are far below public authority requirements,” says Jens Haugsöen, who is Manager of Oljehamnen.

“In the clean waters in and around Oljehamnen, fish delicacies such as grey mullet are thriving,” he continues. “The water depth is a full 13.5 metres and today our terminal is one of Sweden’s largest and most modern.”

Enriched environment     
The tree planting started at the end of 2004 along the Oljevägen road. Now, there are more than a hundred trees along a 1.4-kilometre section. The environment was last enriched in 2008 with a further 40 willows along nearby Kusthamnsgatan road. Some of the companies operating at Oljevägen are sponsoring the environmental initiative, a fact that is disclosed by small signs beside each tree.

“Naturally it is something we are grateful for when companies ask to be allowed to sponsor environmental improvement measures,” Jens Haugsöen comments.

Before the tree planting could take place, huge concrete slabs had to be dug up from old railway unloading areas and transported away. In certain cases, the concrete penetrated several metres down into the soil. The inspiration for the planting came from the oil port in Karlstad, where Flygfältsbyrån is running an environmental project that involves planting bushes. In Malmö too, Flygfältsbyrån has been assisting with some of the planning.

Protection against leaks     
Around 500 ships arrive into Oljehamnen each year, most carrying a cargo of transit oil. The cargo is conveyed up via huge pipes – or product lines – over the ground to the onshore cisterns.

“Another important environmental measure is that we have replaced the “expansion boxes” on the product lines with compensators, which provide even more protection against leakage,” says Jens Haugsöen.

“The pipes move a little depending on outdoor temperature and the compensators ensure that the pipes have the opportunity to expand without sustaining damage,” he concludes.

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