Pitfalls of wastewater treatment in oil refinery enterprises in Kazakhstan-a system approach

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article


The present article is an assessment of wastewater treatment processes in the oil refinery sector in Kazakhstan by comparing relevant experience of developed and developing countries. The legislation in this sphere, the treatment methods, the discharge process and the effect on the environment were evaluated following international and national regulations. In our study, the wastewater systems in three factories in Kazakhstan were assessed. Results show that, even though the environmental regulation in Kazakhstan promotes the polluter pays principle and follows the World Health Organization (WHO) recommendations, the oil refinery plants in Kazakhstan still contain exceeding concentrations of pollutants in their effluents. One issue is that the local legislation allows disposal of wastewater to natural or artificial ponds as long as the concentrations of pollutants in effluents are less than the already existing concentrations in the pond. Consequently, the factories can use ponds with an initially high concentration of contaminants. The high initial concentration of pollutants in the pond water is due to wastewater discharged before the implementation of current environmental regulations. This issue in the current legislation leads to the situation where there is no incentive for efficient wastewater treatment. The national law also lacks regulations regarding which methodology should be used to assess the pollutants in the wastewater. Thus, the control by national environmental office for each enterprise is negotiated separately between the factory and the governmental body. This gives the factory a strong position to define the parameters assessing the effluents. This has led to none of the factories measuring, e.g., heavy metals in discharged wastewater. Total petroleum hydrocarbons (TPH) concentration in wastewater is often exceeded at each factory and there is no analysis done for different hydrocarbon fraction. To overcome the issues described in the present study, we strongly recommended a unified and transparent methodology for the country's oil refinery industry to assess important pollutants in discharged wastewater.


External organisations
  • Pavlodar State University
  • Karaganda State Medical University
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Environmental Management
  • Water Engineering


  • Groundwater, Industrial wastewater, Kazakhstan, Legislation, Oil refinery, Water pollution
Original languageEnglish
Article number1618
JournalSustainability (Switzerland)
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2019
Publication categoryResearch