US EPA issues standards to curb emissions at oil refineries

06 01, 2012 by Platts

The US Environmental Protection Agency issued final regulations Friday covering petroleum refineries' process heaters and flares as a means of cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

The agency estimates the US refining sector will spend about $460 million to retrofit plants, but it said refiners could recoup $79 million/year in savings on an industry-wide basis.

The standards set emissions limits on process heaters and encourage refineries to install systems to recover flare gas.

In five years, EPA estimates the regulations will reduce emissions of sulfur dioxide by 3,200 tons/year, nitrogen oxide by 1,100 tons/year, and volatile organic compounds by 3,400 tons/year.

EPA has spent four years responding to complaints from industry about the standards. The agency said the final version gives refiners more flexibility in complying with the rules and prevents routine operational changes from triggering new requirements.

"Today's final standards are flexible and rely on proven, widely used technologies and processes to cut pollution from flares and process heaters," EPA said.

The American Petroleum Institute said the standards would threaten the refining sector without providing significant environmental benefits.

"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," said Howard Feldman, API's director of regulatory and scientific affairs.