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Letter: commenting on a new refinery ruling

Hydrocarbon Engineering,

The American Petroleum Institute (API) and the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM) have submitted comments to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on ‘Petroleum Refinery Sector Risk and Technology Review and New Source Performance Standards: Proposed Rule’, below are some extracts from a letter submitted with the formal comment research.

‘Air quality in the US has improved significantly, continues to improve, and the US oil and natural gas industry has been a key part of that improvement, investing over US$ 268 billion since 1990 toward improving the environmental performance of its products, facilities and operations. In the year 2012 alone, approximately US$ 14.9 billion was expended on environmental protection.

‘Together, EPA and industry have invested significant time and resources into laying the foundation to inform this rulemaking. Industry aided the development of EPA’s refinery information collection protocol and spent tens of millions of dollars in response to a Section 114 Information Collection Request, which collected entire emission inventories from all US refineries and required emission source testing at numerous sites. Those efforts informed EPA’s very comprehensive modelling of all air emission sources at refineries that conservatively concluded that the public health it protected with an ample margin of safety. It is in our joint interest to finalise a rule that achieves environmental protection while protecting the competitiveness of US refining. However, this protocol includes requirements that impact every aspect of refining, most of which provide no real benefits at enormous costs, and some of which increase safety and operating risk and even some emissions.’

EPA needs to address the many substantive issues raised in these comments

‘Our industry is vital to the economic strength of our nation. We are committed to continue to work constructively with EPA to identify common sense solutions to these issues so that we may continue protecting our workers and the communities in which we operate. Unfortunately, this proposal would add to the list of new regulations impacting refineries that come with enormous costs and downsides, providing little, if any, environmental benefits. In fact, the following examples demonstrate the unacceptable outcomes if the rule, as proposed, were implemented.

‘The proposed ban on releases from atmospheric relief valves and the broadening of the applicability of the flare limits on tip velocity and visible emissions will require the construction of hundreds of new flare systems, in direct conflict with EPA, industry, and the public’s shared goal to reduce flaring, greenhouse gas and criteria pollutant emissions. We do not believe the EPA envisioned or intended this outcome.’

‘The industry has worked in good faith with the Agency for years to reduce flaring, and more recently to ensure high flare combustion efficiency during periods of flaring. Individual companies have spent hundreds of millions of dollars to install flare gas recovery and flare minimisation systems that have greatly reduced flaring events, and with the new flare test data have taken actions to reduce the potential to over steam their flares. These accomplishments should be recognised as the environmental success they are.’

‘EPA has proposed numerous requirements without identifying or justifying the legal basis for its actions or presenting emissions, burden, and cost analysis for comment…This ban will require the construction of dozens, if not hundreds, of standby emergency use scrubbers. These will be large capacity units that must be maintained in a ready mode in case of a rare emergency. EPA must provide the regulated community with sufficient statutory, regulatory, and technical information upon which to comment.’

‘In evaluating the cost effectiveness of new limitations on vents from delayed cokers, EPA elected not to consider the full range of installation costs provided by industry. EPA likewise elected not to utilise the cost information upon which it based the recent NSPS Ja delayed coker vent limit. Rather, EPA based its analysis on the lowest cost installation. As a result, EPA has proposed standards for existing delayed coker units that are unjustifiably more stringent than those EPA recently established for new, modified, and reconstructed units under NSPS JA.’

‘The proposal contains infeasible compliance dates for many items. A number of requirements that require significant capital investment become effective upon finalisation of the rule, and no time is provided to deal with the extensive initial burdens and permitting imposed by the broad rule modifications.

‘The proposal establishes a de facto ambient air benzene limit through the proposed fence line monitoring program, although such limits are not authorised by Section 112 of the Clean Air Act (CAA). The limit is enforced through the imposition of an open ended corrective action requirement, with no limits on cost or feasibility, and nothing to limit the corrective action to facilities under the control of the refinery.’


‘In conclusion, this significant Agency action will cost our industry well in excess of US$ 20 billion in new facilities plus tens of millions in annual operating costs, increase safety risk and emissions, impact US fuel supplies, create significant precedent for regulated industries beyond refineries, and achieve little if any reduction in emissions. Even without requirements that would result in the addition of hundreds of new flare systems and standby scrubbers to refineries nationwide, the cost of this proposal will still significantly exceed the US$ 100 million per year threshold for major and significant actions. As such, the EPA must meet all of the requirements imposed on such rulemaking by a variety of laws and Executive Orders.’

Edited from letter by Claira Lloyd

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