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U.S. Eyes European Security Requirements For Oil Refineries

This text is published in “The Louisiana Weekly” in the April 14, 2014 version.
Oil refiners can be taught from Europe as they struggle to reduce accidents at plants in Louisiana and different states, U.S. safety specialists say. After a string of disasters, President Obama issued an executive order last August to enhance chemical facility safety. A year earlier than his directive, a fireplace at Chevron Corp.’s refinery in Richmond, Ca. stuffed the air with black smoke and particles, sending 15,000 residents looking for medical attention. An April 2010 explosion at Tesoro’s refinery in Anacortes, Wa. killed seven workers.

“Refineries all around the United States are harmful,” United Steelworkers Local thirteen-12 spokesman Bob Landry said final week. He worked at ExxonMobil’s chemical plant in Baton Rouge for 36 years earlier than retiring in 2008. The plant makes use of feedstock from the company’s oil refinery there. Landry, a former president of Local 13-12, mentioned massive European refineries that he visited have better security records than their Louisiana counterparts.

What makes Europe safer For one thing, the EU adopted the Seveso directive in 1982 after a 1976 chemical plant explosion in Seveso, Italy. Below it, EU states must see that refineries and other companies utilizing or producing chemicals have policies in place to forestall accidents. That method is proactive, with security considered as a precondition to working. In 1996, the first directive was changed and broadened by Seveso II, and Seveso III turns into efficient next 12 months.

Late last yr, the U.S. Chemical Safety Board, a federal agency, really helpful that California move to a performance-based mostly regime for refineries much like the “safety case” system adopted within the United Kingdom, Norway and Australia. The board’s suggestion followed its probe of Chevron’s Richmond refinery fire in August 2012.

“Security case is all about regulatory relationships,” John Mendeloff, director of the middle for Health and Safety in the Office at the nonprofit RAND Corporation, stated final week. Underneath it, a refinery must clarify to regulators what steps it will take to ensure safety. Regulators choose the plan, and if it is acceptable, they monitor whether the company is doing what it proposed. “This differs from regulators searching for hazards since that job is usually left to the corporate,” Mendeloff said.

U.S. regulators and refineries have adopted some points of the safety case approach and may incorporate more of it. At a U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee listening to on chemical services on March 6, U.S. Chemical Security Board chairperson Rafael Moure-Eraso mentioned U.S. refineries should attempt to cut back risks from chemical processes as much as is reasonably doable. That’s the cornerstone of the European regulatory system, the place according to insurance coverage statistics, plants have fewer accidents than within the U.S. he stated.

Reinsurer Swiss Re found that financial losses at U.S. refineries were thrice greater than in Europe although its figures are a bit dated now. When requested about that final week, Swiss Re spokeswoman Brigitte Meier in Zurich stated the numbers were collected in 2005 for a particular case and the report is now not out there.

In Louisaina and across the nation, the states and feds regulate refineries. Louisiana’s 19 refineries are largely alongside the lower Missisisppi River and round Lake Charles. Dangerous smells are frequent, and what’s worse, critical accidents happen. ExxonMobil’s Baton Rouge refinery had 65 releases and spills in 2012 and 2013 combined, in line with Louisiana Dept. of Environmental High quality spokeswoman Jean Kelly final week. With crude oil capacity at 502,500 barrels a day, the Baton Rouge refinery is the nation’s third largest.

Outdoors New Orleans in St. Bernard Parish, ExxonMobil’s Chalmette refinery is smaller but had 70 spills and releases in the last two years, Kelly mentioned. Chalmette Refining, LLC, a joint enterprise with state oil company Petroleos de Venezuela, S.A , processes 195,000 barrels of crude daily.

DEQ’s launch and spill numbers are decrease than those of environmental groups, just like the Louisiana Bucket Brigade in New Orleans, because of various reporting standards and the company’s science-pushed information process, Kelly mentioned.

ExxonMobil’s two Louisiana refineries pose severe threats to neighboring communities, in line with the Bucket Brigade. The company, nonetheless, says emissions have declined at both websites and safety crude oil predictions 2016 has improved. Since 1990, ExxonMobil’s Baton Rouge refinery has reduce unstable organic compound emissions by 68 p.c, sulfur dioxide discharges by forty six percent and nitrogen oxides by 35 percent, spokeswoman Lana Venable stated last week. And she mentioned final year was the refinery’s greatest ever in three key areas–environmental compliance incidents or ECIs, spills and flaring.

Since 2006, the Chalmette site has decreased sulfur dioxide emissions by 90 percent, nitrogen oxides by fifty four p.c and risky natural compounds by 69 p.c, in line with Elizabeth Ellison-Frost, spokeswoman for Chalmette Refining, LLC. Since 2010, Chalmette’s carbon dioxide discharges have declined by 40 percent and particulate matter releases by 43 percent. Mild hydrocarbon releases are zero for the fourth straight 12 months, she stated. The refinery recycles and recovers waste at any time when doable. “In 2013, we had our greatest safety performance ever–466 days with out an employee recordable harm,” she mentioned.

The Baton Rouge and Chalmette refineries say they instantly report spills and extreme releases to regulators. But in keeping with the Louisiana Bucket Brigade, refinery accidents statewide are better than what the state and companies say due to self-reporting biases at the plants; estimating reasonably than measuring the amount of pollution released; and incomplete written stories. One of many instruments LABB makes use of to trace accidents and group impacts is its iWitness Pollution Map, exhibiting crude oil predictions 2016 citizen accounts in real-time, together with Nationwide Response Heart experiences.

Landry stated high refinery owners, together with ExxonMobil, BP, Chevron and Shell, personal plants within the United States, Europe and elsewhere–typically in partnership with other firms. However they run them in a different way depending on the governments, enterprise climates and cultures in each nation. Several European international locations with massive refineries, together with the Netherlands and Belgium, are social democracies, he stated. “Refining corporations there do far less lobbying of authorities officials than in Louisiana,” he said. “Unions are accepted, whereas in the U.S. they’ve fallen out of favor.” And many European refineries have councils elected from among their staff. Workers have enter in maintaining operations protected, and the safety culture is more pronounced, he said.

ExxonMobil says its employees in Baton Rouge and Chalmette are carefully engaged in safety. Baton Rouge’s security culture is constructed on extensive worker involvement and consists of more than 20 safety teams, Lana Venable said. “Departmental security committees have their very own budgets and steward safety initiatives in their areas,” she mentioned. “And as a part of our Loss Prevention System, we abide by ‘do not proceed except every little thing is protected.’ Previous to any process, all risks are assessed, analyzed and then acted upon to make sure safe operations.”

At Chalmette Refining, “we have a tradition that any job can and will probably be stopped by anybody if there is a safety concern,” Ellison-Frost said. “The job is just restarted as soon as the problem is labored to everybody’s satisfaction.”

From what Landry has seen, however, refiners in the United States jeopardize security because they’re intent on holding down prices. “Within the U.S. the refinery proprietor, the federal government and the staff pay lip service to safety,” he stated. “Then when an incident happens, they’re pointing fingers at one different.” An employee speaking up a couple of hazard might go unheeded. And a move lately to rent contract staff at Baton Rouge and other U.S. refineries has affected security. He stated hourly, non-skilled staff are likely to give attention to their very own pocketbooks and job perks and don’t essentially care about security.

At 2012’s finish, ExxonMobil’s Baton Rouge refinery had 1,295 workers and 1,200 contract staff, Venable said.

U.S. refiners rely too heavily on temporary fixes, like clamps on leaks in traces, particularly if the leak is considered low risk and they don’t wish to shut down an operation. “You will see 15 or extra clamps on a line,” Landry said. And U.S. refineries use run-to-failure or RTF upkeep, allowing gear to operate till it breaks–at which level spare elements is perhaps ordered. “Below RTF, they don’t keep spare components because inventory takes up room and also you want individuals to guard it,” he said. “As an alternative, they order crude oil predictions 2016 them for next day supply.” Mechanics get frustrated and work is delayed when components aren’t on hand.

So how does Louisiana regulate its refineries Companies impose limits on emissions and depend on testing, monitoring, report keeping and reporting to regulate plants, DEQ’s Kelly said. Refineries will need to have federal Title V permits beneath the Clear Air Act to restrict emissions. They must submit annual compliance certifications detailing that air pollution requirements of their Title V permits have been met. Below federal and state rules, refineries are required to have Threat Management Plans to stop accidents. They want permits for solid waste, waste water, hazardous waste and storm water run-off. For managing hazardous waste, every facility must do a waste evaluation, practice personnel, maintain security and have monetary assurances for closure and liability.

Louisiana’s refineries are required to have emergency response provisions and contingency plans for defending staff and the public from accidents, Kelly stated. Underneath state regulation, they should have a spill prevention plan on site for inspectors to overview.

While these rules could also be enforced by the state and feds, in Louisiana ExxonMobil sometimes pays little in fines for its violations, environmental groups say. The Baton Rouge refinery, for example, was in a position to settle lots of its recent violations by promising to do group work.

Landry of USW mentioned refiners operating within the United States could benefit from the robust company, union and government relationships seen in Europe. But he questions whether or not these liaisons could be solid anytime quickly, given the business climate right here.

The Louisiana Bucket Brigade says anyone one seeing, smelling or listening to pollution, can call, textual content or email that information, together with pictures, to the iWitness Pollution Map. You may also join pollution alerts. To be taught extra, visit right here.