EPA proposing new refinery regulations

August 18, 2014

Claiming to be acting in the interest of public health, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has released new regulatory guidelines for refineries, with a particular focus on benzene emissions.

According to an article on the Oil & Gas Journal, the EPA is proposing to require refineries to measure benzene emissions around the fences of their facilities. Benzene is a natural component of crude oil, but it is also known to be a carcinogen.

The EPA is also seeking to require refineries to reduce emissions of this chemical compound by mandating that they use flares to ensure that waste gases are destroyed and add controls for other units that are responsible for the emissions. 

Though the EPA claims that these new regulations will reduce toxic emissions by about 5,600 tons per year. This not only includes  volatile organic components (VOCs) like benzene, toluene and xylene, as well as a number of other compounds that will also be reduced by about 52,000 tons per year.

The EPA released its regulatory proposal in May of this year. Though it originally allowed 60 days for comments, that deadline has been extended to October 28. Public hearings will be held during the remainder of the summer in preparation.

The oil industry argues that these regulations go too far and will ultimately cause gas prices to rise for the average consumer. Moreover, industry insiders question whether refineries pose enough of a risk to merit this action. Nonetheless, if the new regulations are adopted, refineries will need the assistance of environmental consultants to ensure that they will properly comply with the rules without harming their ability to operate.