Marathon agrees to pollution-cutting measures for US refineries

Marathon Petroleum Corp. has reached an agreement with US regulators to spend nearly $335 million on projects to further reduce air pollution from the company’s refineries in Michigan, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, and Ohio.

As part of the agreement, which amends a 2012 consent decree under the Clean Air Act involving the company’s pollution controls, Marathon will spend $319 million to install state-of-the-art flare gas recovery systems (FGRS) to capture and recycle waste gases that would otherwise be sent to flare combustion devices and released into the atmosphere, the US Environmental Protection Agency and the US Department of Justice said in separate releases.

Alongside a civil penalty of $326,500 to the US government, Marathon also will spend $15.55 million on other mitigation projects aimed at reducing air pollution from its refineries in Michigan, Louisiana, and Ohio, the government agencies said.

When fully implemented, EPA said it expects the amended consent decree to reduce harmful air pollutants like volatile organic compounds, sulfur dioxides, and nitrogen oxides by 1,037 tonnes/year.

The revised consent decree follows Marathon’s 2012 settlement to reduce air pollution from flares at all six of its US refineries by generating less waste gas and by installing equipment designed to make flares burn more efficiently.

That 2012 settlement has reduced emissions of VOCs and SO2 by over 5,200 tpy, according to EPA.

Amended decree

Per the June 9 amendment to the 2012 consent decree, Marathon is required to install a total of seven FGRSs on 13 flares as follows:

• One FGRS at its 93,000 b/d refinery in Canton, Ohio.

• Two FGRSs at its 273,000-b/d refinery Catlettsburg, Ky.

• Two FGRSs at its 132,000-b/d refinery in Detroit.

• One FGRS at its 539,000-b/d refinery in Garyville, La.

• One FGRS at its 212,000-b/d refinery in Robinson, Ill.

In addition to specifying the capacity of the FGRSs to ensure system-wide recovery of more than 90% of flared gases, the amended consent decree requires Marathon to operate these FGRSs with the most stringent up-time obligations that EPA has ever achieved in any prior enforcement action, the agency said.

Marathon also is to maintain two extra, interchangeable FGRS compressors for delivery to any of the five refineries within 24 hr and for operation within 48 hr after delivery, as needed, to meet the more stringent FGRS up-time requirements.

Marathon’s overall investment of $15.55 million on other mitigation efforts under the amended settlement includes the following projects:

• Permanent shutdown of the cracking plant flare on the fence line of the Detroit refinery ($6 million).

• Continued operation of ultra-low NOx burners recently installed on a heavy gas oil reactor heater at the Garyville refinery ($3.25 million).

• Installation and operation of ultralow NOx burners on a vacuum heater at the Canton refinery’s crude unit ($6.3 million).

Marathon previously prepared an amended application to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality for a new air-quality permit at its Detroit refinery after city officials and residents said the original plan would increase SO2 and other emissions (OGJ Online, Mar. 30, 2016).

Contact Robert Brelsford at rbrelsford@ogjonline.com.

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