Tag Archives: Environmental damage

LyondellBasel to spend $50 million to settle pollution allegations

LyondellBasel has agreed to spend $50 million to reduce air pollution at six petrochemical plants, including four in the Houston area.



This is part of a settlement with the Department of Justice and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to resolve allegations that the company failed to operate and maintain flaring. The company also agreed to pay a civil penalty of $3.4 million.

Two of the plants are in Channelview (North and South Facilities) and two are in La Porte (Acetyls and Equistar facilities). The others are in Corpus Christi and Clinton, Iowa.

Flare Stack controls absent

Companies are allowed to vent gases in a flare stack as a control device in a petrochemical plant. Combustion of the gases must occur in the flare stack. For that reason, the flares must have monitoring equipment. Many flares use steam to assist in combustion by promoting turbulence in a flare’s flame. The steam-to-vent gas ratio must be calculated. Too much steam snuffs out the flame, and too little causing excessive smoke. In either case, air pollutants escape.

The EPA alleged that, since 2009, the company

  • made modifications to the stacks without getting the necessary permits
  • failed to install or properly operate flow monitors
  • failed to have sufficient controls to maintain the steam-to-vent gas ratios within specifications
  • operated the flares with excessively high steam content

The EPA singled out the Channelview facilities as subjecting the surrounding area to especially high particulate matter, ozone, toxic cancer risk and respiratory hazard.

One year to install controls

The company has agreed to install the monitoring and control systems within one year. This includes a fenceline monitoring system at each of the plants.

It has also agreed to minimize the amount of waste gas that it sends to the flares. It must submit its initial waste gas minimization plan to the EPA within one year. This includes a root cause analysis of what’s causing the waste gas. An updated plan, taking into account reductions identified as part of the root cause analysis is due within two years.

2007 consent decree

Back in 2007, the company settled other pollution allegations with the DOJ. That settlement covered seven plants in total, including four on the list today. The company paid a penalty of $2.5 million and spent $125 million to reduce air, water and hazardous waste violations.

The settlement comes two weeks after the company pledged net zero emissions by 2050.

In 2020, the company made an operating profit of $2 billion (before impairments). Between 2016-2019, the company had an operating profit of between $4 billion and $5.5 billion each year.

https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/lyondellbasell-companies-agree-reduce-harmful-air-pollution-six-us-chemical-plants

 

Houston pipeline company to pay $60 million after California spill

Refugio State Park – USFWS Pacific Southwest Region

Plains All American has agreed to pay over $60 million in penalties and clean-up costs after a May 2015 pipeline spill west of Santa Barbara, California. The spill, which was caused by corrosion, resulted in the release of 2,934 barrels of crude oil onto Refugio State Beach and the Pacific Ocean.

Plains (market cap $4.9 billion) has its head office in downtown Houston. It has 18,000 miles of crude oil and NGL pipelines as well as 9,100 rail cars and 1,600 trucks and trailers.

The 24-inch pipeline runs from Exxon Mobil’s storage tanks in Las Flores westward to Plains’ Gaviota pumping station. Plains failed to detect the extent of the corrosion. The company was also faulted for waiting 80 minutes after the initial rupture before notifying the California authorities. In addition, Plains did not identify or account for a nearby storm drain in its emergency response plan. The crude oil that escaped flowed through the storm drain directly onto the beach.

Plains will pay

  • $24 million in penalties
  • $22.3 million in natural resource damages
  • $10 million for reimbursed natural resource damage assessment costs
  • $4.3 million for reimbursed Coast Guard clean-up costs

https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/us-pipeline-company-modify-its-national-operations-implement-safeguards-resulting-oil-spill