Texas Freeze Forced US Oil Refineries To Release Tons Of Air Pollutants.

Texas Freeze Forced US Oil Refineries To Release Tons Of Air Pollutants

Shutdowns led to the refineries flaring, or burning and releasing gases in Texas.

New York/Houston:

The largest US oil refiners released tons of air pollutants into the skies over Texas this week, according to figures provided to the state, as one environmental crisis triggered another.

Refiners and petrochemical plants along the US Gulf Coast scrambled to shut production as an arctic air mass spread into a region unused to frigid temperatures.

The extreme cold, which killed at least two dozen people in Texas and knocked out power to more than 4 million at its peak, also hit natural gas and electric generation, cutting supplies needed to run the plants.

Shutdowns led to the refineries flaring, or burning and releasing gases, to prevent damage to their processing units. That flaring darkened the skies in eastern Texas with smoke visible for miles.

"These emissions can dwarf the usual emissions of the refineries by orders of magnitude," said Jane Williams, chair of the Sierra Club's National Clean Air Team.

She said US regulators must change policies that allow "these massive emissions to occur with impunity."

TOP POLLUTERS

The five largest refiners emitted nearly 337,000 pounds of pollutants, including benzene, carbon monoxide, hydrogen sulfide and sulfur dioxide, according to preliminary data supplied to the Texas Commission on Environment Quality (TCEQ).

Valero Energy said in a filing with the TCEQ that it released 78,000 pounds over 24 hours beginning February 15 from its Port Arthur refinery, citing the frigid cold and interruptions in utility services.

The 118,100 pounds of emissions from Motiva's Port Arthur, Texas, refinery between Feb. 15 and Feb. 18 were more than three times the excess emissions that it declared to the US Environmental Protection Agency for the whole of 2019.

Marathon Petroleum's Galveston Bay Refinery released 14,255 pounds over less than five hours on February 15, equivalent to about 10% of its total releases above permitted levels in 2019.

Exxon Mobil said its Baytown Olefins Plant emitted nearly one ton of benzene and 68,000 tons of carbon monoxide, citing in its disclosure the halting of "multiple process units and safe utilization of the flare system."

Newsbeep


Exxon blamed the shutdown of two Texas refineries on the freezing weather and loss of natural gas supplies. A spokesman said its petrochemical plants in Texas and Louisiana have supplied 560 megawatts to local communities, helping power about 300,000 homes.

Valero did not have an immediate comment. Motiva and Marathon did not respond to requests for comment.

Final figures on pollution releases are due to be submitted to the state in two weeks.

"NO SAFE AMOUNT"

The flaring continued through the week as refiners kept plants out of service.

"We had six or seven flares going at one time," Hilton Kelly, who lives in Port Arthur, home to refineries operated by Motiva, Valero and Total SE, said on Friday. "It's still happening now."

Sharon Wilson, a researcher at advocacy group Earthworks, said the releases are alarming, in part because "there is no safe amount of benzene for human exposure."

State data showing oil and gas producers were flaring methane this week "is just making things worse, and it could have been prevented" by winterizing facilities, she said.

Texas oil and gas companies filed 174 notices of pollution releases above permitted levels between February 11 and February 18, four times the number the prior week, according to TCEQ data.

Total pollution at Houston-area facilities during the cold snap totaled approximately 703,000 pounds, about 3% of the total pollution over permitted amounts for all of 2019 and almost 10% of 2018's releases, according to TCEQ data analyzed by advocacy group Environment Texas.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

NDTV News

NDTV.com provides latest news from India and the world. Get today’s news headlines from Business, Technology, Bollywood, Cricket, videos, photos, live news coverage and exclusive breaking news from India.

https://www.ndtv.com/

Related news

S-400 Missile System Vehicle Meets Accident In Russia.

A vehicle of the Russian military's seminal air-defence system -- the S-400 Triumf missile systems -- was caught in a traffic accident on the Mozhayskoye Highway outside Moscow on Thursday.

NDTV News

CPAC chairman explains why they're giving Trump a platform.

CPAC chairman explains why they're giving Trump a platform.

CNN's Chris Cuomo questions CPAC chairman Matt Schlapp about giving former President Donald Trump a platform following the former President's claims of election fraud. #CuomoPrimeTime #CNN #News

Investigations intensify into assault on U.S. Capitol

Investigations intensify into assault on U.S. Capitol

More than six weeks after the attack on the U.S. Capitol, the investigation into how it happened and who was involved continues to turn up new information. CBS News reporter Cassidy McDonald joins "CBSN AM" with the latest.

New York City announces loosening of COVID-19 restrictions.

New York City announces loosening of COVID-19 restrictions.

Gov. Cuomo revealed his plan to open movie theaters in a limited capacity for the first time in nearly a year while also under fire for misreporting nursing home deaths earlier in the pandemic.

BREAKING: Scotland to move back to level system at the end of April.

BREAKING: Scotland to move back to level system at the end of April.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has announced that Scotland will move back to a regional level system of restrictions at the end of April. That means that from the last week of April, areas currently in Level 4 will move into Level 3. Sky News vide...

Live: Senate Holds First Hearing On Capitol Riot - NBC News.

Live: Senate Holds First Hearing On Capitol Riot - NBC News.

Watch live coverage as the Senate Homeland Security and Rules Committee holds a joint hearing on the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. » Subscribe to NBC News: » Watch more NBC video: NBC News is a leading source of global news and information. Here y...

Here’s why Ted Cruz flying to Cancun was *so* bad

Here’s why Ted Cruz flying to Cancun was *so* bad

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz was bombarded with negative press after he was spotted on social media hopping on a flight to Cancun with his family amid a devastating winter storm and subsequent power grid failure. In the latest episode of The Point, CNN’s C...