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HPIn Brief

05.01.2012  |  Thinnes, Billy,  Hydrocarbon Processing Staff, Houston, TX

Keywords: [flaring] [EPA] [Marathon] [green chemistry] [ethanol] [E15] [EPA] [petrochemcials] [Gulf Cooperation Council]

Marathon limits flaring

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Justice recently announced an agreement with Marathon Petroleum Co. that has already reduced air pollution from all six of the company’s refineries. In a first for the refining industry, Marathon has agreed to controls on flares and to a cap on the volume of waste gas it will send to its flares. When fully implemented, the agreement is expected to reduce air pollution by approximately 5,400 tpy.

A recently filed consent decree resolves Marathon’s alleged violations of the Clean Air Act. As part of the effort to reach this agreement, Marathon spent more than $2.4 million to develop and conduct pioneering combustion efficiency testing of flares.

In addition, beginning in 2009, Marathon installed equipment, such as flow monitors and gas chromatographs, to improve the combustion efficiency of its flares. To date, Marathon has spent approximately $45 million on this equipment and projects, and plans to spend an additional $6.5 million. Marathon also will spend an as-yet undetermined sum to comply with the flaring caps required in the consent decree.

At the same time, Marathon indicates that the equipment it already has installed is saving it approximately $5 million per year through reduced steam usage and product recovery.

From 2008 to the end of 2011, the controls Marathon installed eliminated approximately 4,720 tpy of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and 110 tpy of hazardous air pollutants (HAPs). An additional 530 tpy of VOCs and 30 tpy of HAPs are projected to be eliminated in the future. Under the agreement, Marathon will also implement a project at its Detroit, Michigan, refinery to remove another 15 tpy of VOCs and another 1 tpy of benzene from the air. At an estimated cost of $2.2 million, Marathon will install controls on numerous sludge handling tanks and equipment.

Marathon will pay a civil penalty of $460,000. HP

The American Petroleum Institute (API) and American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM) trade groups are critical of the US EPA’s recent decision to approve higher levels of ethanol in gasoline (E15) before testing is complete, alleging that it could put consumers at risk. The groups said the EPA decision comes before the completion of thorough testing by the automobile and oil industries to ensure the safety and performance of the new fuel for vehicles. According to the API, testing results so far have revealed problems with E15 and that engine damage from its use may not be covered under vehicle manufacturer warranties. In March, the EPA approved the first applications to make E15, a 50% increase from the E10 blend allowed at present.

Technip has signed a cooperation agreement in the green chemistry business with Compagnie Industrielle de la Matière Végétale (CIMV). The two companies have been working together for the past five years, during which Technip provided CIMV with technological expertise in the fields of engineering and construction, enabling CIMV to pass from the pilot unit stage to the industrial unit stage. During this period, a CIMV process has been identified as a disruptive technology in the field of green chemistry. This technology is among the only ones in the market capable of converting solid biomass into hydrocarbons that can be used as a feedstock by the petrochemical industry. The CIMV technology can thus be seen as a key enabler for the sustainable green chemistry sector based on nonedible feedstock, Technip officials said. In conjunction with the technical collaboration, Technip has established a sales force to promote the CIMV process outside of France, along with the wide range of bio-sourced applications it offers industrial companies.

Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) petrochemical companies’ fourth quarter 2011 earnings declined by 11.9% year-on-year to $732.2 million, compared to $831.6 million in the same period in 2010. This is according to a recent report from Global Investment House. Performances for petrochemical companies overall were marred by lower pricing in global markets. On a country level, the UAE stood out with major profitability growth, followed by Qatar. On the other end of the spectrum, net earnings in the Saudi Arabia and Oman petrochemical sectors dropped by over 16% each. Overall, performances of regional petrochemical companies were mixed. The leading contributor to the sector’s profitability was Saudi Basic Industries Corp. Other GCC petrochemical companies in the black for this time period included Industries Qatar and Safco. Companies reporting substantial losses were Saudi Kayan and Nama Chemicals.

BP’s previously announced sale of its Canadian natural gas liquids business to Plains Midstream Canada has been completed. The sale, which also included BP’s liquefied petroleum gas business in Canada, was made for $1.67 billion in cash. As of April 1, BP’s remaining business in Canada—including the integrated supply and trading business, the oil sands and existing Arctic discovery licenses—will be under BP Canada Energy Group, the company said.

W. R. Grace & Co. has entered into an agreement with Dow Chemical to develop new catalysts for polypropylene production. The catalysts, which use one of Dow’s non-phthalate internal donor technologies and Grace proprietary catalyst expertise, will be sold by Grace. These catalysts will help producers make resins to improve the performance of plastics, including better clarity, stiffness and impact strength. Customers can use the resins in a broad range of applications such as films, high-performance pipe, automobile parts, household appliances and household containers. Grace expects to begin commercial production of the new catalysts later this year. HP

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