Two Rocky Mountain refiners settle federal air pollution charges

Two Rocky Mountain oil refiners agreed to pay a total of more than $141 million to settle federal air pollution charges, the US Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Justice said on Feb. 10.

Feb 13th, 2009

Two Rocky Mountain oil refiners agreed to pay a total of more than $141 million to settle federal air pollution charges, the US Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Justice said on Feb. 10.

They said that Frontier Oil Corp. agreed to pay a $1.23 million fine and spend approximately $127 million on pollution control upgrades at its Cheyenne, Wyo., and El Dorado, Kan., refineries. Wyoming Refining Co. agreed in a separate settlement to pay a $150,000 fine and spend approximately $14 million on similar upgrades at its Newcastle, Wyo., plant.

The settlements will reduce harmful air emissions by 7,000 tons annually, EPA and DOJ said. They said that the agreements require installation of advanced control technologies which will reduce yearly emissions of sulfur dioxide by some 3,775 tons, nitrogen oxide by some 2,100 tons and other pollutants by some 1,200 tons. The three refineries' combined production capacity is approximately 168,000 bbl a day.

Each refinery will also upgrade leak detection and repair practices to reduce harmful emissions from pumps and valves, implement programs to minimize the number and severity of flaring events and implement new strategies to ensure continued compliance with the federal Clean Air Act's benzene waste requirements, according to EPA and DOJ.

They said that as part of its settlement, Frontier agreed to install dome covers on refinery storage tanks at its two plants to reduce volatile organic compound emissions. The company also agreed to correct deficiencies in the refineries' risk management program which were identified in a 2006 EPA inspection, including overdue inspections and tests of storage vessels containing toxic and flammable substances.

EPA said that under the Clean Air Act, facilities which handle large amounts of chemicals are required to develop a risk management program to assess hazards associated with dangerous chemicals. The program must include an accident prevention program and an emergency response plan to deal with accidental releases, the federal agency said.

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com

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