February 14, 2010 at 11:27 am #2763
Refinery edges toward capacity
By DUSTIN BLEIZEFFER – Star-Tribune energy reporter | Posted: Sunday, February 14, 2010 12:15 am
Steam rises from the Sinclair oil refinery at sunrise late last month. There have been 14 reportable spills at the refinery in less than a year. (Ken Driese/Star-Tribune correspondent)
The Sinclair oil refinery in Carbon County is still operating at partial capacity more than two months after an external power failure caused a shutdown and a series of complications.
Sinclair Wyoming Refining Co. officials said that as of last week all major operating units where in operation, and the refinery could be operating at capacity soon.
“We’re working to improve our ability to deal with certain types of disruptions,” said John Pfeffer, environmental health and safety manager at the refinery.
An external power outage on Dec. 6 forced a shutdown of the refinery, including boilers and the steam system. Extreme cold weather complicated efforts to restart the systems, leading to the release of toxic gases hydrogen sulfide (H2S) and sulfur dioxide — the 14th reportable spill at the refinery in less than a year.
Pfeffer said the refinery is working with Rocky Mountain Power to improve its connectivity to the utility’s power grid. The refinery still has very limited onsite backup power, consisting of some diesel-powered generation and air compression to provide short-term backup for critical components.
At the same time, the refinery has embarked on several internal improvements to correct problems that have resulted in several gaseous spills. Many of the spills were because of the integration of two new sulfur recovery units installed in 2008.
Pfeffer explained that when the units operate at reduced rates it results in fouling of the tail-gas treating section of the units. To resolve the problem, the refinery will install a hydrogen injection line into the tail-gas treating portion of the units.
There have also been several liquid spills at the refinery during the past year because of malfunctions with various storage tanks. Most recently, some 30 barrels of “gas oil” spilled when fluids became so hot that steam built up enough pressure to cause a bulge in a tank on Feb. 5.
Pfeffer said the refinery evacuated non-essential personnel as a precautionary measure.
“We did it as a precaution. At the time the incident was occurring we were not sure the significance of the incident,” said Pfeffer.
So far, no injuries have been reported with any of the spills at the refinery during the past year.
The Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality has issued three separate notices of violation to the refinery related to spills. Pfeffer said the refinery is currently in negotiations with DEQ to resolve the notices.
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