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Safety warning

LEGAL action could be taken against campers in Bahrain who are putting their own lives in danger by erecting tents in hazardous areas of the desert, which is where the nation's oil and gas field is located.

Some even use high-pressure oil and gas pipelines to secure their tents during the camping season, which started at the end of October and sees thousands of people head to Sakhir to enjoy the cooler winter weather.

Many are ignoring warnings and setting up camp in zones deemed off-limits because they are strewn with high pressure pipelines and have poisonous and flammable hydrogen sulphide (H2S) in the air, according to the firm responsible for the Bahrain Field.

It said in most countries such areas were closed to the public, but many people didn't appreciate the risk - even driving over pipelines and tampering with them.

"The Bahrain Field is a large open plant without a fence," explained Tatweer in a statement.

"People have open access to the Bahrain Field, which is not normally allowed in other similar fields around the world.

"Tatweer produces oil and gas from the field and transports it to customers through a large network of pipelines.

"H2S is a common gas that is found in oil and gas operations. It is both toxic and flammable - Bahrain Field is not different.

"While all our operations are closed and no H2S is vented to the air in Tatweer's operations, there can still be some instances where it will be present at some facilities.

"In order to keep campers safe, they are urged to remain outside of the facilities' exclusion zones."

As a result the company is advising campers to remain a safe distance from oil and gas infrastructure.

It recommends that people stay at least 50 metres from pipelines, 60 metres from oil wells and 425 metres from Khuff gas wells.

"We have seen campers routinely use these high pressure pipelines to hold their tents and we have seen others who drive over these lines," said the statement.

"Rupturing or breaking a high pressure pipeline can cause devastation around it.

"We have cases of tampering with the pipelines that can cause leakage or, in extreme cases, explosions.

"This is why campers are urged to maintain a safety exclusion zone of at least 50 metres."

The company said it would have to call the police to handle campers who put themselves at risk.

"We are now going through an internal campaign of safe camping awareness for our employees - especially for those who drive in the (Bahrain) Field - and to encourage them to report violating campers, who we report to the proper authorities for further action," it added.

The Bahrain Field, measuring approximately 15km long and 5km wide, occupies almost 80 per cent of the country's mainland.

It stretches from Riffa in the north to the Shaikh Isa Air Base in the south and from Bahrain International Circuit in the west to Alba in the east.

Camping Service Centre head Mohammad Ebrahim Sisi told the GDN that up to 2,000 tents would be erected in the desert during the camping season.

He said the Southern Governorate was stepping up its efforts to ensure campers did not stray into danger areas and had put up warning signs to raise awareness.

"There are campers violating the camping law by placing their tents in these restricted areas," said Mr Sisi.

"To remove them it is not as simple as just asking them to leave - we have to take legal procedures."

He estimated that around 30 to 40 tents were currently at risk, but admitted that once they were removed others would spring up in their place.

"The issue is that even after we remove tents from a restricted area, within a couple of days, there will be another in the same spot," said Mr Sisi.

"We then have to go through the same procedure to remove them, which takes around a week."

Additionally, he said many campers did not know how to read maps provided and often pitched tents in hazardous locations - completely oblivious to the danger.

"The best solution would be for Tatweer to fence off at least the hazardous zones," he said.

"Within the tree months of camping we will have around 2,000 tents and we do our best to ensure the safety of all campers, but it is a tough job."

Tatweer urged campers to remain alert while they are in the Bahrain Field and report any strange smells or sounds from pipelines immediately.

If campers believe a pipeline has been compromised, they should immediately move away from it against the direction of the wind and call Tatweer Petroleum security on 17758333. ahmed@gdn.com.bh



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