Sun, May

Many refineries in the Houston area are along waterways vulnerable to flooding.


According to the Washington Post, Hurricane Harvey has damaged two ExxonMobil refineries, causing the release of hazardous pollutants. First noticed as a chemical smell in parts of Houston, the Post reports that regulatory filings with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality state that “a floating roof covering a tank at ExxonMobil’s Baytown oil refinery sank in heavy rains, dipping below the surface of oil or other material stored there and causing unusually high emissions, especially of volatile organic compounds, a category of regulated chemicals.”

ExxonMobil has not publicly reported what was in the damaged Baytown Refinery tank and a full assessment is not expected until flooding subsides. Meanwhile, the Post reports, “at the company’s Beaumont petrochemical refinery, Harvey damaged a sulfur thermal oxidizer, a piece of equipment that captures and burns sulfur dioxide. As a result, the plant released 1,312.84 pounds of sulfur dioxide, well in excess of the amounts allowed by the company’s permits.”

The company’s filing states that the Beaumont unit has been stabilized with minimal emissions and no impact to the community.

Several facilities belong to oil companies filed notices the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality due to chemicals emitted during the shutdown of the plants. According to the Commission, a waiver is in place for those emissions, due to the emergency nature of events.


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