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EPA updates to refinery emissions standards

Hydrocarbon Engineering,

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is proposing to update the toxic air pollution standards for petroleum refineries to protect neighbourhoods near refineries.

EPA is issuing the proposal as part of a process outlined in the Clean Air Act that requires the agency to evaluate emissions standards currently in place to determine whether there are any remaining risks to public health or the environment.

The agency’s proposal, which has been spurred by input from stakeholders including community groups, industry and the states, would further reduce toxic pollution from flaring and other processes.

In addition, new rules would require:

  • Monitoring of air concentrations of benzene around the fenceline perimeter of refineries.
  • Upgraded emission controls for storage tanks, including smaller tanks. 
  • Performance requirements for flares, to ensure that waste gases are properly destroyed.
  • Emissions standards for delayed coking units, which according to the EPA are currently a significant source of unregulated toxic air emissions at refineries.

Once implemented, it is estimated that these proposed updates will reduce toxic emissions by approximately 5600 tpy. Volatile organic compound emissions would be cut by approximately 52 000 tpy. Furthermore, the EPA insists these steps will have no noticeable impact on the cost of petroleum products.

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy commented: “This proposal will help us to accomplish our goal of making a visible difference in the health and the environment of communities across the country. The common-sense steps we are proposing will protect the health of families who live near refiners and provide them with important information about the quality of the air they breathe”.

EPA will take comment on the proposal for 60 days after it is published in the Federal Register. The agency plans to hold two public meeting, near Houston and Los Angeles, and will finalise standards in April 2015.

Adapted from a press release by Emma McAleavey.

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