February 27, 2008 at 4:07 am #3773
A cleaner ExxonMobil
By Kristin S. Agostoni, Staff Writer
Article Launched: 02/26/2008 12:03:11 AM PST
Inside the gated ExxonMobil refinery in Torrance, crews have begun work on a lengthy project that promises to cut down on fine particle air pollution.
If the 120-foot crane isn’t enough of an indicator, the roughly 500 contract employees dedicated to the job are working big. Crews are expected to be on site all year, with completion of two new 80-by-80-foot steel structures targeted for January 2009.
Work on the equipment designed to control ammonia emissions and filter dust and fine particulate matter has been under way since August at the corner of 190th Street and Crenshaw Boulevard, where a construction tent has been pitched inside the refinery fencing.
Once the sides of the structures are shifted into place with the crane, the units will be set atop a heavy-duty trailer and hauled from the staging area to another part of the property.
The move is not planned until the summer, but ExxonMobil has already begun notifying neighbors. Sometime in July, residents could see the tops of the massive structures traveling along an access road near the plant’s Crenshaw border.
Refinery officials said they’ve received few complaints and inquiries since the workers set up last summer, but they expect the move to draw gawkers. They also warned surrounding neighborhoods about lights
staying on all night, and that delivery trucks could slow traffic.
“It is definitely the largest piece of pollution (control) equipment that’s ever been constructed at the refinery,” spokeswoman Carolin Keith said.
It wasn’t a voluntary effort, however.
The work stems from a November 2003 South Coast Air Quality Management District regulation that toughened emission standards for South Bay and Harbor Area oil refineries.
The stricter rule, known as 1105.1, is designed to cut down on the amount of ammonia and fine particles spewed from fluid catalytic cracking units – devices that convert gas oil into a mix of liquefied petroleum gas, gasoline and diesel.
The rule prompted a lawsuit from the Western States Petroleum Association, which argued it put unfair financial burdens on the oil refineries. In February 2006, however, an appeals court upheld the regulation as a cost-effective means of reducing air pollution from fine particles.
The measure applies to five South Bay and Harbor Area refineries – ExxonMobil, Tesoro, BP, Conoco Phillips and Valero. Chevron in El Segundo had already voluntarily installed new equipment when the rule was adopted, an AQMD report stated.
ExxonMobil, like the Tesoro and BP plants in Carson and Valero in Wilmington, will meet the more stringent requirements with new dry electrostatic precipitators (ESP), devices that rely on electrically charged plates to trap tiny dust particles.
ExxonMobil’s two new ESPs will replace a pair of older ones that are operating less efficiently, Keith said. The steel-walled chambers, which can operate independently of each other, are expected to remove 15 pounds of small particulate matter and 33 pounds of ammonia every hour.
ExxonMobil will then pay to have closed trucks haul away the filtered particles, which can be used in cement mixing, said Gene Weber, project manager.
“This is what it does over and above the existing equipment that we have,” Weber added.
ExxonMobil, which won AQMD approval for the work last March, is trailing neighboring oil refineries forced to follow the same clean-air mandate.
Tesoro spokeswoman Brissa Totello said the plant has completed its work, while Valero spokesman Steve Faichney said construction at the Wilmington refinery is scheduled to be finished in October.
BP Public Affairs Director Walter Neil said its new ESP should be operating in March.
Meanwhile, Conoco-Phillips has gone in a slightly different direction, opting to build a “wet gas scrubber” and wet electrostatic precipitator that curbs pollution by mixing flue gas with a caustic water solution. The company’s magazine says the droplets capture sulfur oxides and microscopic particles from the flue gas “in the same way a rainstorm clears the air.”
It claims to be the “first company in Southern California to install this type of equipment on a (cracking) unit.”
AQMD officials certified the work last February, spokesman Tony Cordero said, and construction is expected to wrap up this fall.
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