Insights on Environmental Health & Safety (EH&S), Operational Risk and Product Stewardship

5 Things You Should Know About the Refinery Flare Rule

July 10th, 2017
The List: Refinery Flare Rule
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It’s impossible to guesstimate how many kids have asked their parents on cross-country road trips why there’s a big flame coming out of that tall tower over there or why there appears to be a white cloud under the flame.

After all, many young people tend to think of fire as a scary thing, but in this case the refinery flares they see shooting out from the top of the towers serve a great purpose: They burn off the excessive hydrocarbon gases rather than send those vapors into the atmosphere, and the cloud underneath is steam that helps promote clean combustion.

That said, flares do give off emissions that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is now starting to track more rigorously under the Refinery Flare Rule, which was proposed in 2014, went into effect in 2016 and currently has a compliance deadline of Feb. 1, 2019, for existing flares.

The flare rules, which are designed to control emissions, will have a profound effect on U.S. Oil & Gas companies. That’s why Jeff Ladner, Sphera’s vice president of environmental performance, teamed with Michele Gray, CH2M’s senior EHS technologist, to discuss the changes in a recent Environmental Leader webinar titled “Shaping Your Facility Information Management Strategy to Comply With the Refinery Flare Rule.”

There were several key takeaways from the webinar.

5 Takeaways From the Refinery Flare Rule Webinar

  1. 1) Why the Change? The rule was driven by public concerns about flaring, especially smoking flares. When the EPA began looking at its data that went back to the 1980s, it found that destruction removal efficiency was not as high as the agency anticipated it would be. That’s why the rule was proposed in 2014.
  2. 2) What Changed? One big change was that the EPA began implementing fence-line monitoring for benzene to show the public what was leaving the areas around the refineries and heading toward residential or other business areas in the vicinity. This is a key change that could have implications for other environmental regulations in the future.
  3. 3) What Else Changed? Another big development is that, under the rule, the EPA is now allowing video camera surveillance to be used as evidence that a company is complying with opacity requirements.
  4. 4) What Got Taken Out of the Rule? Certainly one of the biggest changes is the elimination of the exemption of startup, shutdown and malfunction events. Even so, it’s possible that state agencies will include similar requirements for companies to get the proper permits.
  5. 5) How Will This Affect Oil & Gas Companies? Collecting data is a huge component of the new rule. Oil & Gas companies will need to compile much more data than ever before to track potential releases rather than just the result of an emissions event. Flow meters must be installed to accurately calculate emissions, and companies are going to have to be able to manage the data overload from them and other data-collecting requirements. A solid information management strategy is key to ensure compliance with the Refinery Flare Rule. Integrated data can help with continuity, which will help capture the transparency requirements under the rule.

To learn more about the Refinery Flare Rule, you can listen to the archived webinar or contact Sphera for more information.

The List: Refinery Flare Rule

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