Three US subsidiaries of Dutch chemical company LyondellBasell Industries have agreed to make $50 million in facilities upgrades and implement compliance measures as a result of violations of the Clean Air Act.
Lyondell will also pay a $3.4 million civil penalty as a result of the violations that occurred at six petrochemical manufacturing facilities, located in Texas and Iowa. The settlement was announced by the Department of Justice and the Environmental Protection Agency and the agencies say the agreement will eliminate thousands of tons of air pollution.
According to the complaint the companies failed to properly operate and monitor their industrial flares, which resulted in excess emissions and harmful air pollution. The settlement states that the Lyondell subsidiaries regularly oversteamed the flares at their facilities and failed to comply with other operating constraints.
The settlement requires the companies to install and operate air pollution control and monitoring technology to reduce flaring and lower harmful air pollution. The pollution controls are estimated to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, methane and ethane by nearly 92,000 tons a year, the EPA says.
The flares also released volatile organic compounds and the EPA says the settlement is expected to reduce those emissions by almost 2,700 tons annually and cut other toxic pollutants, including benzene, by 400 tons a year. The VOCs can increase respiratory illnesses and benzene is classified by the EPA as a carcinogen.
“Those controls, plus a requirement for fence line monitoring of benzene emissions, will result in significant benefits for the local communities in Texas and Iowa,” says Larry Starfield, acting assistant administrator for the EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance.
Flares are devices used to combust waste gases that would otherwise be released into the atmosphere. The EPA says well-operated flares should combust most of the harmful waste gas elements. The agreement requires Lyondell to minimize the amount of waste gas sent to the flares and must improve the combustion efficiency when flaring is necessary.
At some of the facilities Lyondell will also operate flare gas recover systems that recycle the gases instead of having them combusted. Those systems will allow the company to reuse the gases. For flaring that is necessary the agreement calls for the company to operate monitoring systems to ensure the gases are efficiently combusted.
Lyondell also must monitor air quality around the six facilities and publicly post the results, according to the settlement.
Earlier in 2021 chemical company Dow made a $294 million agreement with the EPA to clean up similar pollutants from flares at plants in Texas and Louisiana. Dow also paid a $3 million civil penalty.
The EPA says flare compliance is a priority under its National Air Toxics Initiative.