September 1, 2017
On Tuesday, ExxonMobile disclosed that two of its refineries were damaged due to Hurricane Harvey, releasing 12,000 pounds of hazardous pollutants into the air. The disclosure was made in a regulatory filing with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, after repeated complaints on social media of chemical odors over the Houston area.
Exxonmobile said in the filings that at the company’s Baytown refinery, a floating roof covering an oil refinery tank sank in heavy rains, causing unusually high emissions. The floating roofs are a common part of the design component of the tanks to help control how much petroleum is evaporated.
The Baytown refinery is the second largest in the country. An Exxonmobile spokeswoman said the company would, “conduct an assessment to determine the impact of the storm once it is safe to do so.” The company would need to empty the tank to make any repairs, but cannot make any assessments or repairs until the weather clears. The filings said any emissions caused by the damage and repair operations were expected to end by Friday.
The damage from Hurricane Harvey continued at the Beaumont petrochemical refinery. Their sulfur thermal oxidizers, which capture and burn sulfur dioxide, were damaged. This resulted in the release of 1,312.84 pounds of sulfur dioxide, well exceeding the amount allowed. Exxonmobile stated, “The unit was stabilized. No impact to the community has been reported. Actions were taken to minimize emissions and to restore the refinery to normal operations.”
Exxonmobile is not the only company to file reports involving chemical emissions to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. It was reported that some other major companies may have even greater amounts of emission.