Processing Magazine

‘Accidents’ at refineries, petrochemical plants pollute Texas, environmental group says

July 19, 2012

WASHINGTON — According to a new report from the Environmental Integrity Project (EIP), “accidents” and other non-routine events at Texas oil and gas facilities, refineries and petrochemical plants released almost 100,000 tons of pollution from 2009-2011.

The EIP report was based on data gathered from a Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) database.

During the three-year time period covered in the Texas study, the non-routine emission events at chemical plants, refineries and natural gas operations released a combined total of more than 42,000 tons of sulfur dioxide and just over 50,000 tons of smog-forming volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

Natural gas operations — which include well heads, pipelines, compressors, boosters and storage systems — accounted for more than 85% of total sulfur dioxide and nearly 80% of the VOCs released during these episodes. Both pollutants are linked to asthma attacks and other respiratory ailments, and can form fine particles that contribute to premature death from heart disease, according to the report.

“Too many of these ‘accidents’ are the norm at some natural gas and chemical plants,”

said EIP Director Eric Schaeffer. “These upsets can dump a lot of pollution in a few short hours, and some of them continue releasing benzene and other toxins for weeks. Many of these breakdowns — and the pollution that comes with them — could be prevented by upgrading pollution controls, improving maintenance and recapturing and reusing gas instead of releasing it to the environment as pollution. The US EPA needs to crack down on polluters who seem to think that these events — no matter how many or how severe — somehow excuse them from the Clean Air Act.”