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Valero to begin using new pollution-control equipment at refinery near Delaware City

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    Charles Randall
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    By JEFF MONTGOMERY, The News Journal
    Posted Friday, December 15, 2006 at 6:42 pm

    The second of two huge sulfur dioxide “scrubbers” will begin operating at the Valero refinery near Delaware City in the coming days, state officials announced today.

    Successful startup of the new system would complete the largest air pollution control project in state history, and end the refinery’s status as the nation’s top refinery source of sulfur dioxide emissions.

    The Delaware plant’s previous owners agreed to install the equipment to settle a series of state and Environmental Protection Agency pollution complaints. The consent decree, approved in 2001, included dozens of requirements, but most were dwarfed by the expected 37,600 ton-per-year emission reduction expected once the $400 million pair of scrubbers go on line.

    Few refineries across the nation release more than 10,000 tons of sulfur dioxide yearly. Sulfur dioxide is a respiratory irritant and contributor to smog and acid rain. Plantwide emissions of the pollutant will have declined by 65 percent under the agreement.

    “This is a monumental achievement that has taken an extraordinary effort on the part of everyone involved with this project,” said Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control Secretary John A. Hughes. He added that “when this second scrubber begins operating, Delaware’s air quality will improve significantly and bring measurable benefits to the health of our citizens.”

    Passers by might notice a new but harmless steam plume emerging from the scrubber, to be installed on a Valero “catalytic cracker,” a unit that breaks crude oil hydrocarbons into smaller molecules for gasoline and other products.

    The Delaware plant, capable of processing more than 190,000 barrels of crude oil daily, was designed to handle high-sulfur, hard-to-process crude oil.Contact Jeff Montgomery at 678-4277 or jmontgomery@delawareonline.com

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