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RE: COP Permit to set New Standard?


Charles Randall

Conoco permit may set new refinery standard

September 11, 2008
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By Gitte Laasby Post-Tribune staff writer
BP Whiting and other American refineries may have to implement stricter pollution control measures if a newly issued, tweaked permit for an Illinois refinery becomes the standard. An environmental organization believes it will.
“Our interpretation is, this likely sets a precedent particularly for flaring that other refinery expansions across the country are going to have to live up to. This is a win for anyone who lives near a refinery. It will hopefully lead to a reduction in smog and health problems related to the emissions that are likely to come out of those flares,” said Josh Mogerman, spokes-man for the Natural Resources Defense Council.
The NRDC had appealed the original air permit for ConocoPhillips in River Wood, Ill., arguing that flares from the refinery’s new $2 billion coke oven would release excessive pollution.
The NRDC has made similar arguments in an appeal of BP Whiting’s air permit. Both refineries use flares to burn off excessive gas that builds up in the refining process.
Like BP, ConocoPhillips is undergoing a modernization to process more Canadian crude oil.
A federal appeals board, which reviewed the ConocoPhillips permit, said the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency had to better explain its flaring requirements. The Illinois EPA has now approved a tweaked permit, which requires the company to do more monitoring of the refinery’s flares, implement a plan to prevent flaring and find out why if it occurs. That is already required in California.
“They have to do root-cause analysis if they have a significant flaring event. Go in and see why it happened, maybe get in consulting services to find out, is this something we can minimize by operating differently,” said Chris Romaine, who reviewed the ConocoPhillips permit for the Illinois EPA. “ConocoPhillips agreed to more than was required by the initial permit. We agreed to do a little more than we might have been comfortable with.”
NRDC’s Mogerman estimated the tweaks prevent emissions of 500 tons of pollutants per year. ConocoPhillips spokesman Bill Graham said the company agreed to add a system to monitor the flares after the federal review by EPA’s Appeals Board.
“There were a couple of questions. One was, are we using best available technology for the flaring. It was determined that we are because we are installing state-of-the-art flare recovery. The additional thing we’re doing is that we’re putting in environmental monitoring equipment for the flares,” Graham said.
The company already planned to install a flare gas recovery system, which recycles the gas and uses it for energy in the refinery rather than burning it in flares.
Cheryl Newton, acting director of the air division at U.S. EPA Region 5, said as far as she knows, ConocoPhillips is using the same kind of system to capture the gases to avoid the flaring as BP, but that comparisons between the two are otherwise hard to make.
ConocoPhillips’ permit is considered a major permit because emissions are higher and there are different standards for pollution control equipment than BP, which is a minor permit. The Illinois EPA’s permit is reviewed by a federal board while the Indiana Department of Environmental Management’s permit for BP is reviewed by the state’s Office of Environmental Adjudication. That means the ConocoPhillips decision may not have a direct legal impact on BP, but environmentalists could bring it up when the OEA hears three appeals of BP Whiting’s air permit in the summer of 2009.

Contact Gitte Laasby at 648-2183 or Comment on this story at

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