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Chemical Plants Flock To Louisiana For Low cost Natural Gas

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With a hundred chemical plants and seventeen oil refineries, Louisiana wrestles with pollution, and that’s except for any havoc wreaked by the BP spill. The state has attracted some cleaner industries just lately, however after natural fuel costs dropped to 10-yr lows this spring, chemical manufacturers are dashing to construct and develop. Residents want those jobs but worry explosions and toxic emissions.

“The number of plants coming our manner, both for positive or probably based on feasibility studies, is fairly darn substantial,” said Loren Scott, emeritus economics professor at Louisiana State College. “We’re getting a much bigger slice of the chemical pie because natural gasoline is low cost here whereas it is nonetheless costly in Europe.” Natural gas is around $2.30 per million BTU on the brand new York Mercantile Alternate now, down from almost $16.00 in 2005.

Don Briggs, president of the Louisiana Oil and Gasoline Association, said new methods of extracting fuel from Haynesville shale — located in northwestern Louisiana, jap Texas and southwestern Arkansas — revolutionized drilling. Within the Haynesville play, wells are drilled down to achieve shale formations, after which the drill bit is turned and the effectively is prolonged laterally into rock. After that, hydraulic fracturing or fracking happens. Water, sand and chemicals are pumped into the nicely to interrupt the rock apart and release gasoline. Briggs stated the method was a technology leap that he likened to astronauts landing on the moon.

With a nonstop supply of gasoline from fracking, manufacturers are hurrying to construct chemical plants in Louisiana. They’re going to use the gasoline for gasoline and as building blocks for their products, and they expect to learn from a community of fuel pipelines and the Mississippi River’s infrastructure. State-run Louisiana Financial Development is icing the cake with property and payroll tax credit and other incentives to corporations constructing plants.

Scott named a few of the many plants taken with locating right here. Sasol in South Africa is considering a $4.5 billion ethylene advanced in southwest Louisiana that would come on stream in four years. Methanex in Canada wants to construct a methanol plant in Geismar in Ascension Parish. Final 12 months, SNF Flopam opened a specialty chemicals plant in Iberville Parish that could provide more than 500 jobs by 2015. Royal Dutch Shell would possibly build a large plant, changing natural gas into diesel gas, in Louisiana.

Dyno Nobel Worldwide, based in Utah, would like to build an $800 million ammonia plant on the Westbank of Jefferson Parish close to New Orleans. Nalco Firm, the maker of Corexit used to disperse oil from the BP spill, is constructing a polymer facility in St. John the Baptist Parish upriver from New Orleans. Common pay at most of those services is projected at $57,000 or $58,000 a 12 months, plus benefits.

Other varieties of manufacturers have been lured here by cheap pure fuel. In St. James Parish, Nucor is constructing a pig iron plant, with plans for a much larger steel coal gasification venture complicated there. However Zen-Noh Grain Corp. which owns a close by export terminal, filed lawsuits in April claiming the steel plant would spout carcinogens.

Scott stated Louisiana plants have an advantage over European producers in making ethylene, a chemical utilized in plastics. “Europe has plenty of shale however France and Bulgaria have outlawed fracking, and several different European nations oppose it,” he stated. European manufacturers make ethylene from crude oil, which is dearer than pure fuel. It prices almost twice as much to churn out ethylene from crude in Europe now because it does to make it from Louisiana’s gas.

Briggs stated, “Haynesville is the largest shale deposit within the nation, and we’ve known about it for a long time.” The rush to purchase and drill land in the Shreveport-Bossier Metropolis area got underway in 2006 and 2007. “We have all the time had pure fuel however now we now have ample, lengthy-term supplies,” he said. “In a single day we created a supply that is so immense we now not need to import fuel and are making ready to export it. Business can count on ample supplies.”

Natural gasoline producers aren’t joyful in regards to the latest drop in costs, however, and some operators have reduced output. Briggs mentioned, “Subsequent yr, gas is likely to be up at $5.00 again,” however he doubts prices will return to their 2005 ranges anytime quickly.

Looking overseas, Scott warned that European nations would possibly eventually soften their coal gasification venture opposition to fracking, perhaps out of necessity. In that case, prices there would drop.

In the meantime, Louisiana residents worry about accidents. On March 22, Westlake’s PVC chemical plant in Geismar, 25 miles south of Baton Rouge, exploded and launched vinyl chloride, chlorine and hydrochloric acid into the air. Roads and a protracted stretch of the Mississippi River were closed for awhile. A lawsuit on behalf of neighbors was filed against the corporate.

The nonprofit Louisiana Bucket Brigade and the Washington, D.C.-primarily based Environmental Integrity Undertaking coauthored letters last Dec. 14 and once more on May 17 of this 12 months, asking the U.S. Environmental Protection Company to revoke the DEQ’s authority to handle the Clear Air Act program. They cited frequent, petrochemical plant accidents. “Every of those accidents releases monumental quantities of hazardous pollution that pose risks to the health and safety of the communities we advocate for,” the May 17 letter mentioned. The teams faulted DEQ for air-monitoring teams reaching accidents too late, not sharing information about accident monitoring on a timely foundation, providing knowledge that is not transparent or comprehensible, and never surveying people for chemical publicity.

Based on the Might 17 letter, “when Louisiana does take enforcement actions, the penalties are little greater than a slap on the wrist. In 2010, the average penalty for a Clear Air Act violation in Louisiana was $1,329.86, the second lowest within the nation.” In Texas, the typical penalty for a violation in 2010 was a lot larger at $26,620.

When asked about these letters last week, EPA spokesman David Bary in Dallas said his company’s place is that “the EPA has delegated authority to the DEQ to administer and implement the federal Clean Air Act. By means of annual EPA audit and overview processes, the EPA remains assured that DEQ will continue to ensure the protection of public health and the environment throughout Louisiana.” In other phrases, EPA will continue to work with DEQ.

In the final two decades, DEQ has gotten tougher on chemical companies. In the early nineteen nineties, Sixty Minutes, The Oprah Winfrey Present and other Tv network packages drew consideration to well being threats from Louisiana’s chemical plants. In 1995, DEQ demanded that chemical producers enhance security procedures and accident responses and inform the general public about incidents. In 2005, DEQ put in additional air monitoring equipment at 15 chemical plants and refineries within the Baton Rouge space, and found that their emissions contributed to ozone.

As a government agency, DEQ has to just accept the cards it has been dealt. Decisions about making errant plants pay larger fines, Texas style, lie with Governor Jindal’s office and the Louisiana legislature.

DEQ spokesman Rodney Mallett mentioned last week “DEQ responds to greater than 10,000 calls from residents and business a 12 months. Each one is investigated.” Federal and state packages rely in part on self-reporting by business. “Most of industry desires to comply with environmental regulations,” Mallett mentioned. “They stay and work in the same areas.”

He explained how DEQ responds to an incident, and stated with eight regional workplaces, DEQ dispatches emergency responders and technicians from the closest office. “As quickly as DEQ arrives, we conduct air or water monitoring” and consult with native authorities, he stated.

Mallett continued, saying “many times, the responders who receive the 9-1-1 name, such because the state police or native fire departments, additionally conduct air monitoring, as does the ability itself. Parish and metropolis emergency responders make choices about how to guard people with evacuations or shelters-in-place.”

He mentioned all of DEQ’s accident information is on the market on-line or by request at deq.louisiana.gov.
The Louisiana Bucket Brigade and other environmental groups want state authorities to do extra, nonetheless. “If individuals consider the DEQ statements that these accidents pose no danger to the general public, then they make selections — like buying a home subsequent to a refinery or sending their kids to high school near a chemical plant — because of a false sense of safety,” LABB mentioned in its Could 17 letter to EPA.

To help folks make selections about shifting and holidays, the EPA has a device known as AirCompare. Louisiana’s St. Bernard Parish — home to Chalmette Refining, a Valero refinery and a Domino Sugar plant — topped the Gulf’s worst air list in 2011 with 77 unhealthy air days for those with asthma or lung disease. Next was Harris County, Texas with 32 dangerous air days.

A choking-air day in Louisiana can make you want it have been solely a nasty hair day. Bossier Parish had 17 lung-threatening air days last 12 months. East Baton Rouge had seven, West Baton Rouge had three, while Orleans and Jefferson Parishes had two every.

Meanwhile, many chemical companies have decided they’d relatively be secure than sorry. Edward Flynn, vice president for well being and safety at the Louisiana Chemical Association, said “at present there’s more emphasis on process safety, along with the prevailing emphasis on worker security.” The current approach is extra proactive and preventive than it was. “Plants need to have good techniques and procedures in place to ensure every thing is working properly,” he mentioned. “They’re now taking a look at leading indicators for security, not just lagging indicators — like how an accident happened.”

Since 2006, U.S. pure gasoline manufacturing has grown by greater than 25 p.c, primarily because of horizontal drilling combined with fracking. Don Briggs mentioned that course of is secure however communities worry about aquifer contamination and the opportunity of earthquakes.

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