Shell to Pay Millions for Pollution Control in Houston, Texas, Area

As part an agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) described as the first of its kind involving chemical production, Shell Oil and affiliated companies will invest "at least" $115m in cleaning up emissions at the multinational oil and petrochemicals giant's refinery and chemical complex at Deer Park, Texas. The complex borders a residential neighborhood and a school.

The group also will pay a fine of $2.6 million for violations of the U.S. Clean Air Act alleged by the EPA and the U.S. Department of Justice.

Among other projects, the EPA said Shell will spend $100 million to minimize flaring by recovering and recycling waste gases - some of which it may use as chemical feedstock or products. The producer also has agreed to install flare caps and instruments as well as monitoring systems to ensure that gases sent to flares are burned with 98% efficiency. A $1 million on a state-of-the-art system will monitor benzene levels at the fenceline of the complex.

Additionally, Shell will be required to reduce emissions of sulfur dioxide and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from the complex, including benzene, by 4,550 t/y. When the upgrades are fully implemented, emissions of greenhouse gases will be reduced by around 260,000 t/y, the EPA said. Shell also has been ordered to upgrade its wastewater treatment facilities.

At its Deer Park facility, Shell processes some 330,000 barrels per day of crude oil as well as producing 8,000 t/d of chemicals.

The case is part of the Obama adminstration's effort to curb pollution in communities bordering industrial complexes, said Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator of the EPA's Office of Enforcement and Compliance. The areas surrounding Houston are home to many chemical production facilities.

In a complaint filed on behalf of the environmental agency, the Department of Justice alleged, among other things, that Shell improperly operated is 12 steam-assisted flaring devices in such a way that excess VOCs were emitted.

The consent decree relating to the settlement is subject to a 30-day public comment period and court approval. 



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