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AQMD TO SEEK EMISSION REDUCTIONS FROM REFINERY FLARES

Sept. 3, 2004

The Southland’s air quality agency today called for the development of a rule to further reduce air pollution from flares at refineries and other facilities in the region.

“Refineries in recent years have significantly reduced flare emissions on a voluntary basis in response to emissions data reporting requirements,” said Barry Wallerstein, executive officer of the South Coast Air Quality Management District.

“We believe that further emission reductions are achievable through development of a new pollution control regulation.”

AQMD’s Governing Board today directed its staff to develop an amendment to its Rule 1118 – Emissions from Refinery Flares – to require further emission reductions.  The action followed the presentation by AQMD staff of a technical report on flaring operations in the region.  Eight refineries, a sulfur recovery plant and a hydrogen production facility, all in Los Angeles County, operate 27 flares.

Flares – easily recognized by their highly visible flames emitted from a tall stack – are used to burn and dispose of vent gases generated as part of petroleum production processes or during a process upset.  Flares are also used as safety devices to relieve pressure and prevent fires or explosions.

In 1998 AQMD adopted Rule 1118 requiring the eight refineries and two related facilities to collect emissions data from their vent gas flaring operations.  Data was collected from October 1, 1999 through December 31, 2003. 

Today’s report summarizing the findings of that data found that while emissions of sulfur oxides (SOx) from flaring have significantly decreased in the past few years – from an average of 7.2 tons per day in 2000 to 2 tons per day in 2003 – such operations still represent a significant source of SOx emissions in the Southland.  SOx emissions from flares are equal to that emitted by all the large diesel trucks operating in Southern California.   SOx emissions contribute to the formation of fine particulate pollution, which is linked to a number of health effects from increased hospital admissions to premature deaths.

Based on the findings, the AQMD plans to begin the rulemaking process to amend Rule 1118 to ensure that emission reductions achieved over recent years will continue and that further reductions occur.

Flaring operations are unique to each facility.  The AQMD will consider a menu of compliance options for facilities to ensure that emission reduction goals are appropriate for each facility. 

In other action today, the Board:

  • Amended Rule 2007 – Regional Clean Air Incentives Market (RECLAIM) Trading Requirements, to continue current trading restrictions on power producing facilities until amendments to the RECLAIM program are considered by the AQMD Board this fall;
  • Set an informational hearing for October 1 to provide interested parties and the public an opportunity to comment on proposed amendments to the RECLAIM program.  A white paper on proposed amendments to the RECLAIM program will be released at the hearing; and
  • Awarded $834,000 in funding to school districts and bus operators in the four-county region to retrofit existing diesel school buses with particulate filter traps and provide other necessary insulation and cleaning devices for the filter traps. 

AQMD is the air pollution control agency for Orange County and major portions of Los Angeles, San Bernardino and Riverside counties.

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