Shell Oil To Spend Over $115 Million to Reduce Harmful Air Pollution

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by Tim Willmott : Be the first to leave a comment

Shell Oil To Spend Over $115 Million to Reduce Harmful Air Pollution at Houston Area Refinery And Chemical Plant

The Department of Justice and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced today that Shell Oil have agreed to resolve alleged violations of the Clean Air Act at a large refinery and chemical plant in Deer Park, Texas by spending at least $115 million to control harmful air pollution from industrial flares and other processes, and by paying a $2.6 million civil penalty. Shell has agreed to spend $1 million on a state-of-the-art system to monitor benzene levels at the fenceline of the refinery and chemical plant near a residential neighborhood and school and to make the data available to the public through a website.

Shell will spend $100 million on innovative technology to reduce harmful air pollution from industrial flares, which are devices used to burn waste gases. Shell is required to take the following actions to improve flaring operations:

  • minimize flaring by recovering and recycling waste gases (which may then be reused by Shell as a fuel or product);
  • comply with limitations on how much waste gas can be burned in a flare (flare caps);
  • and install and operate instruments and monitoring systems to ensure that gases that are sent to flares are burned with 98% efficiency.

Shell’s agreement to recover and recycle waste gases (flare gas recovery) at its chemical plant is a first of its kind.
Once fully implemented, the pollution controls required by the settlement will reduce harmful air emissions of sulfur dioxide, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), including benzene, and other hazardous air pollutants by an estimated 4,550 tons or more per year. These controls will also reduce emissions of greenhouse gases by approximately 260,000 tons per year.

“The innovative emission controls required by today’s settlement will cut harmful air pollution in communities near Houston,” said Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator of EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance.

In addition to reducing pollution from flares, Shell will

  • significantly modify its wastewater treatment plant;
  • replace and repair tanks as necessary;
  • inspect tanks biweekly with an infrared camera to better identify potential integrity problems that may lead to leaks;
  • and implement enhanced monitoring and repair practices at the benzene production unit.

Also, in a second project to benefit the community, Shell has agreed to spend $200,000 on retrofit technology to reduce diesel emissions from government-owned vehicles which operate in the vicinity of the Deer Park complex.

These actions will cut emissions of pollutants that can cause significant harm to public health. Exposure to high concentrations of sulfur dioxide can affect breathing and aggravate existing respiratory and cardiovascular disease. VOCs are a key component in the formation of smog or ground-level ozone, a pollutant that irritates the lungs, exacerbates diseases such as asthma, and can increase susceptibility to respiratory illnesses, such as pneumonia and bronchitis. Chronic exposure to benzene, which EPA classifies as a carcinogen, can cause numerous health impacts, including leukemia and adverse reproductive effects in women.

Shell, which is headquartered in Houston, processes approximately 330,000 barrels per day of crude oil at its Deer Park facility, making it the 11th largest refinery in the United States. In addition, the Deer Park chemical plant produces approximately 8,000 tons per day of products that include ethylene, benzene, toluene, xylene, phenol, and acetone. Both the chemical plant and the refinery operate 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

More information about the settlement: www.epa.gov/enforcement/air/cases/sdp.html

More information about EPA’s Air Toxics National Enforcement Initiative:
http://www.epa.gov/compliance/data/planning/initiatives/2011airtoxics.html

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Deer Park, Texas

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Deer Park, Texas 29.705228, -95.123820 Shell OilDeer Park, TX, USA (Directions)

 

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