San Francisco to vote to dramatically reduce refinery pollution with new technology


The Chevron Corp refinery is seen in Richmond, California, United States, August 7, 2012. REUTERS / Robert Galbraith

June 15 (Reuters) – California air quality regulators on July 21 vote on a plan that would require two San Francisco-area refineries to install technology to tackle pollution that exacerbates health problems, a said an official on Tuesday.

Exposure to soot and fine particles has been linked to health problems ranging from asthma to heart attacks. Recent studies have shown that fine particles have a disproportionate impact on communities of color and low-income neighborhoods that are often found near industrial factories. Read more

Both refineries are urging the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) to adopt a less stringent standard that would not require them to install wet gas scrubbers, which would cost hundreds of millions of dollars. Dozens of refineries have already invested in the technology, including the neighboring refinery of Valero (VLO.N) Benicia.

A refining company, PBF (PBF.N), has warned the cost will likely prompt it to shut down its facility.

The Bay Area is not meeting national and national air quality standards for particulate matter, forcing the region to further reduce its emissions. Bay Area refineries, including the 245,000 barrels per day (b / d) Chevron (CVX.N) Richmond and the 157,000 b / d PBF Martinez, emitted 800 tonnes of particulate matter last year, according to the district.

Last week, the United States Environmental Protection Agency announced it would review federal particulate matter standards to protect public health. Read more

Particulate matter in the air has been linked to an increased risk of cancer as well as damage to the heart, lungs and nervous system. Residents of Richmond, California have one of the highest asthma rates in the state, according to county data.

A virtual meeting on the issue in early June drew more than 200 participants for more than five hours of testimony. Environmental activists want a tougher rule, while union members said tougher measures would shut down the PBF refinery, leading to job losses.

The BAAQMD estimated that installing wet scrubbers would cost Chevron about $ 241 million and PBF $ 255 million. Chevron and PBF say it will cost them $ 1.5 billion and $ 800 million, respectively.

Refineries emit particulates when they operate their fluid catalytic cracking units (catalytic crackers) to turn crude oil into gasoline and high octane products, as well as to burn petroleum coke.

Under the stricter rule, refineries are expected to limit annual particulate emissions to 0.01 grain per standard dry cubic foot by 2026, in accordance with standards applied to new sources of pollution. The requirement would reduce PBF and Chevron particulate emissions by half or 400 tonnes per year, according to BAAQMD estimates.

The district said refineries might consider lowering labor costs or increasing gas prices for consumers by 2 cents per gallon to offset the cost.

A less stringent amendment would force refineries to meet a standard of 0.02 gr / dscf by 2023, which would require improving and expanding existing controls at a cost of $ 30 million for Chevron Richmond and $ 80 million. million dollars for PBF Martinez.

Reporting by Laura Sanicola in New York; Editing by Lisa Shumaker

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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