LA Valero Refinery Shut Down

Thursday, April 12, 2012 @ 03:04 PM gHale

One week after Valero’s St. Bernard Parish refinery in Meraux, LA, suffered a lightning strike causing a power surge, an electrical shortage and sulfur dioxide and hydrogen sulfide releases, the refinery lost power and had to shut down its production units.

As the production units shut down, there was noticeable flaring area residents described as deep orange flames full of smoke, high-pitched noises, vibrations and steam.

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“There was flaring at the refinery as production units were safely shut down,” said Bill Day, Valero’s executive director of media relations based in San Antonio. “We do not anticipate any environmental impact in the community due to the flaring.”

Sulfur dioxide, hydrogen sulfide and volatile organic compounds released into the flares but that no exact amounts of such releases were immediately available, said Tim Beckstrom, a Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) spokesman.

The power outage occurred about 9:30 a.m. Tuesday and Day said while the cause of the power outage under investigation crews have restored power and “refinery units should be back at planned rates within a couple of days.”

Last Tuesday, there was an electrical shortage of its “hydrocracker unit,” which removes sulfur from fuel.

When the hydrocracker unit shut down, all releases went to the refinery’s flares that burned off most of the chemicals, meaning the offsite release was reportedly minimal, at about 12 parts per billion of sulfur dioxide.

Peter Ricca, emergency response manager for DEQ, said at the time that such a release would not involve health issues, only “quality of life” factors, such as a bad smell that could possibly cause headaches.

At its height last week, about 750 pounds of sulfur dioxide and 40 pounds of hydrogen sulfide per hour were going into the flares, St. Bernard Fire Chief Thomas Stone said after last week’s incident.

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