On January 30, monitoring and gas analysis submissions were closed for the latest update to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Refinery Sector Rule (RSR). Introduced in 2015, the rule was created to control air emissions from petroleum refineries and provide important information about refinery emissions to the public and neighbouring communities.
The latest update to the rule required additional monitoring and gas analysis for when regulated material is sent to the flare.
Managing the air
Flares are important safety devices used in refineries and petrochemical facilities to safely burn excess hydrocarbon gases which cannot be recovered or recycled. During flaring, excess gases are combined with steam and/or air, and burnt in the flare system to produce water vapour and carbon dioxide. Flaring is a helpful safety process that can prevent over pressuring in pipes and reactors – reducing the risk of explosion – but the burning of hydrocarbons also produces Carbon Dioxide (CO2).
In 2015, the EPA introduced the RSR to control air emissions from petroleum refineries – seeking to eliminate flare and process upset emissions. The rule required refineries to monitor emissions at key sources within their facilities.
Initially slated for 2017, the EPA chose to extend the compliance date for analysis to January 30, 2019, providing petroleum refinery owners and operators with an additional 18 months to comply.
With the RSR now in full effect, the EPA expects operators to reduce air pollutants by 5,200 tonnes per year and volatile organic compounds (VOC) by 50,000 tonnes per year.
Despite the implementation of the RSR, the future of regulation is uncertain for petroleum refineries. In February, it was reported refineries and power plants could face less scrutiny from the EPA. The agency is considering dropping its 20-year old enforcement priority of reducing emissions, making the permitting process easier for operators. It is not clear what effect this will have on the RSR but reducing legislation around air pollution is likely to make it easier for routine flaring to occur.
However, if the RSR continues to require control of emissions from petroleum refineries, operators will need accurate information about their flaring levels.
One of the most accurate ways to measure flare gas is with ultrasonic technology. Fluenta’s FGM 160 Flare Gas Meter uses ultrasonic technology to effectively provide measurement data, allowing oil and gas companies to better identify the processes that result in the most gas flaring.