The Department of Justice, EPA and Shell Oil and affiliated partnerships (Shell) have agreed to resolve alleged violations of the Clean Air Act at a large Shell refinery and chemical plant in Deer Park, Texas. Shell agreed to spend at least $115 million to control harmful air pollution from industrial flares and other processes, and will pay a $2.6 million civil penalty.
In addition, Shell has agreed to spend $1 million on a state-of-the-art system to monitor benzene levels at the fenceline of the refinery and chemical plant near a residential neighborhood and school and to make the data available to the public through a web site.
“The innovative emission controls required by today’s settlement will cut harmful air pollution in communities near Houston,” said Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator of EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “This case is part of EPA’s nationwide enforcement effort to protect fenceline neighborhoods by significantly reducing toxic pollution from flares and making information about pollution quickly available to affected communities.”
Shell will spend $100 million on innovative technology to reduce harmful air pollution from industrial flares, which are devices used to burn waste gases. Shell is required to improve flaring operations by: minimizing flaring by recovering and recycling waste gases (which may then be reused by Shell as a fuel or product); complying with limitations on how much waste gas can be burned in a flare (flare caps); and installing and operating instruments and monitoring systems to ensure that gases that are sent to flares are burned with 98 percent efficiency. Shell’s agreement to recover and recycle waste gases (flare gas recovery) at its chemical plant is a first of its kind.
“This settlement will result in substantial reductions in toxic air pollution through state of the art technology and increased efficiencies at the Deer Park plant,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Robert G. Dreher of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “This agreement will bring Shell Oil’s refinery and chemical plant in Deer Park into compliance with the nation’s Clean Air Act and result in cleaner, healthier air for residents in the local communities for many years to come.”
Once fully implemented, the pollution controls required by the settlement will reduce harmful air emissions of sulfur dioxide, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), including benzene, and other hazardous air pollutants by an estimated 4,550 tons or more per year. These controls will also reduce emissions of greenhouse gases by approximately 260,000 tons per year.