[author: Ellen Cordell]
On June 1, 2012, the EPA issued a final rule updating 2008 Clean Air Standards regarding process heaters and flares at petroleum refineries. The new standards will cut pollution from process heaters, which are used to heat process fluids. The process heaters will need to meet emission standards for nitrogen oxides. Further, the new standards will also cut pollution from flares, which are used to burn waste gases during the refining process. Flares will need to meet monitoring requirements and follow work practice standards. The EPA also noted that a benefit of the rule is to encourage refineries to recover gas that will then be used to power refinery equipment.
The new regulations were enacted following the filing of petitions requesting the EPA revise 2008 standards. Input from industry stakeholders regarding new process heaters and flares at refineries was also incorporated into the rulemaking. The EPA indicated the final rule ensures that new requirements will not be triggered by refineries as they are performing routine operation modifications. Therefore, the new regulations will provide the refineries with much greater flexibility when complying with the regulations.
The EPA noted the new regulations will save the refining industry approximately $80 million per year. The agency also indicated that emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx), sulfur dioxide (SO2) and volatile organic compounds, which produce ground levelozone and fine particle pollution, will be reduced. According to the EPA, the benefit will be to create $610 million in annual health benefits.
However, representatives of American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers and the American Petroleum Institute disagree with the EPA’s assessment. In particular, they disagree with the amount that will be saved by the refining industry each year. Howard Feldman, regulatory and scientific affairs director with the American Petroleum Institute, noted that the refineries have already spent billions of dollars to improve air quality. “This is part of a tsunami of new EPA air regulations for refineries that could diminish our fuel manufacturing capacity and increase our reliance on imported fuels.”