For decades now the oil companies and the communities they operate in the vicinity of have had a kind of love-hate relationship with many ups and downs on the way. On the one hand the communities love the economic benefit and regional advancement that the oil companies bring in their wake while on the other they decry the real as well as imaginary environmental, health or safety related threats posed by the oil, gas and petrochemical plants operating in their midst.

As the population increases with time so does the demand for land required for urban development. This by necessity results in building of residential and commercial areas in close proximity of process plants, refinery and other oil handling facilities. This paper highlights the need for mutual cooperation that must exist amongst all parties concerned: the Company, the urbanization and planning bodies, community leaders, public servants, journalists and industrialists. This cooperation can only materialize through mutual trust which in turn can only be generated through a better understanding by all of the actual risks associated with various oil refining and oil handling facilities and the risk mitigation measure that the Company employs to ensure all real risks are reduced to a level as low as is reasonably practicable.

The concept of "zero-risk" being attainable in a process environment is infeasible. For land use decision-making we must apply formal techniques of quantitative risk assessment (QRA) and other recognized risk evaluation methods that are being used by many government organizations in Europe and North America. The UK Health and Safety Executive (HSE) have issued quite comprehensive guidelines on this topic which have found acceptance worldwide. This paper briefly explains how the QRA technique works and provides several real life examples of use of QRA in land use planning in Bahrain.

There is an immediate need for rational risk mitigation by the Company and rational risk acceptance by the community -- all for the sake of common national interest and vision for the future. Creation of a joint review board working in an advisory capacity might be the answer.

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