4 The record articles

What’s Being Reconsidered in the Refinery Sector Rule?

Posted: October 13th, 2016

Authors: Kristin G. 

On October 5, 2016, U.S. EPA announced reconsideration of issues raised in petitions submitted for sections of the Refinery Sector Rule (RSR) [i.e., 40 CFR Part 60, Subparts J and Ja and 40 CFR Part 63, Subparts CC (Refinery MACT 1) and UUU (Refinery MACT 2)].  The proposed reconsideration focuses on five main areas of the RSR:


  1. Pressure Relief Device (PRD) work practice standards
  2. Delayed Coker water overflow alternative provision
  3. Emergency flaring work practice standards
  4. Fenceline monitoring provision regarding reduction in frequency of monitoring at sampling stations with consistently low benzene concentrations
  5. Assessment of risk from the refinery source categories after Implementation of the PRD and emergency flaring work practice standards

U.S. EPA is also proposing amendments to the RSR to clarify a compliance issue and to correct referencing errors.  This article includes a brief history of the RSR, addresses how the reconsiderations came about, and reviews the five main areas of the reconsideration, including what U.S. EPA is seeking comment on, as well as a summary of additional technical considerations.

Let’s Rewind…

For those needing a quick refresher, the RSR was published on December 1, 2015 and became effective on February 1, 2016. U.S. EPA received numerous petitions for reconsideration.

On January 19, 2016, the American Petroleum Institute (API) and the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM) requested an administrative reconsideration and on February 9, 2016, U.S. EPA issued a proposal which was later finalized on July 13, 2016 and addressed items that API and AFPM covered in the original petition (see Meghan Barber’s blog for details).

On February 1, 2016, a petition from Earthjustice, submitted on behalf of a group of NGOs comprised of Air Alliance Houston, California Communities Against Toxics, Clean Air Council, Coalition for a Safe Environment, Del Amo Action Committee, Environmental Integrity Project, Sierra Club, Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services and Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment, was filed. Supplemental joint petitions from API and AFPM were also filed.  On June 16, 2016, letters were sent to petitioners granting reconsideration of the petitioners’ claims as they relate to aspects of the final rule where the public was not afforded an opportunity for notice and comment.  U.S. EPA’s October 5, 2016 proposed reconsideration addresses these petitions.  Upon official publication in the Federal Register, a 45 day comment period will begin.

The Heart of the Matter

Let’s get to the five issues that U.S. EPA has addressed in the proposed reconsideration and break them down a bit.  What are the main issues?  What is U.S. EPA seeking comment on?

  1. PRDs– In the final RSR, U.S. EPA established a four-part work practice standard in place of the ‘prohibition on release to the atmosphere’ based on what was achieved by the best performers, as denoted by the two California rules.  The first part of the work practice standard requires PRDs to be monitored using a system capable of notifying an operator of a pressure release, while also recording the time and duration of each pressure release.  The second part of the work practice standard establishes preventative measures for each affected PRD to prevent direct release of HAP to the atmosphere as a result of pressure release events.  The third part requires a root cause analysis be performed to determine the cause of a PRD release event.  The final part of the work practice standard requires a corrective analysis to be conducted and implemented, for any other event other than a force majeure event.  A refinery has 45 days to complete a root cause analysis and implement any corrective actions after the release event.U.S. EPA is seeking comments on the work practice standard for PRDs as provided in 40 CFR §63.648(j)(3) and (5) through (7), including the number and type of release/event allowances; the type of PRDs covered by the work practice standard; and the definition of “force majeure event” in 40 CFR §63.641. Comments are also being sought on the recordkeeping and reporting requirements associated with the work practice standard in 40 CFR §63.655(g)(10)(iii) and (i)(11).
  2. Delayed Coking Units (DCUs) –  In the final RSR, U.S. EPA included a new alternative requirement for DCUs with water overflow design to hard-pipe the overflow drain water to the receiving tank via a submerged fill pipe (pipe below the existing liquid level) whenever the overflow water temperature exceeds 220 °F.  U.S. EPA is requesting comments on the alternative work practice standard for delayed coking units employing a water overflow design provided in 40 CFR §63.657(e).
  3. Emergency Flaring – In the final RSR, a work practice standard was established for when a flare exceeds its smokeless capacity.  The work practice standard requires for a flare to have a continuously-lit pilot flame and meet combustion zone operating limits (e.g., heat content in the combustion zone) at all times, and also meet the monitoring, recordkeeping, and reporting requirements.  The work practice standard also requires for the development of a flare management plan to identify the flare system smokeless capacity and flare components, waste gas streams that are flared, monitoring systems and their locations, procedures that will be followed to limit discharges to the flare that cause the flare to exceed its smokeless capacity, and prevention measures implemented for PRDs that discharge to the flare header.  The work practice standard requires for a root cause analysis to be conducted and corrective action to be taken for any flaring event that exceeds the flare’s smokeless capacity and that also exceeds the flare tip velocity and/or visible emissions limit.  A refinery has 45 days to complete a root cause analysis and implement any corrective actions after the release event.U.S. EPA is seeking comments on the above smokeless capacity work practice standard in 40 CFR §63.670(o), including requirements to maintain records of prevention measures in 40 CFR §63.670(o)(1)(ii)(B) and (iv); the requirement to establish a single smokeless design capacity in 40 CFR §63.670(o)(1)(iii)(B); the number and type of releases/events that constitute a violation; the phrase “…and the flare vent gas flow rate is less than the smokeless design capacity of the flare” in 40 CFR §63.670(c) and (d)”; and other provisions in 40 CFR §63.670(o)(3) through (7). Additionally comments are being requested on the recordkeeping and reporting requirements associated with these work practice standards in 40 CFR §63.655(g)(11)(iv) and (i)(9)(x) through (xii).U.S. EPA has determined that 40 CFR §63.670(o)(1)(ii)(B) contains an incorrect reference to pressure relief devices for which preventative measures must be implemented. The correct reference is 40 CFR §63.648(j)(3)(ii) not 40 CFR §63.648(j)(5) and as such U.S. EPA is proposing to correct the reference.  U.S. EPA is seeking comment on the updated reference found in 40 CFR §63.670(o)(1)(ii)(B).
  4. Benzene Fenceline Monitoring – In the final RSR, U.S. EPA provided provisions that were not proposed that would allow for reduced benzene fenceline monitoring frequency (after 2 years of continual monitoring) at monitoring locations with consistently low fenceline concentrations. U.S. EPA is requesting comment on allowing refineries to reduce the frequency of fenceline monitoring at monitoring sites that consistently record benzene concentrations below 0.9 micrograms per cubic meter (µg/m3), as provided in 40 CFR §63.658(e)(3).
  5. Risk Assessment – As part of the development of the rule, U.S EPA performed a residual risk review for the Petroleum Refinery source categories including assessments of chronic and acute inhalation risk, as well as multipathway and environmental risk, to inform U.S. EPA’s decisions regarding ample margin of safety of risk. The study concluded that the cancer risk to the individual most exposed (maximum individual risk or “MIR”) based on allowable HAP emissions is no greater than approximately 100–in-1 million, which is the presumptive limit of acceptability, and that the MIR based on actual HAP emissions is no greater than approximately 60-in-1 million but may actually be closer to 40-in-1 million.

In the final Refinery MACT 1 rule, U.S. EPA established work practice standards for PRD releases and emergency flaring events, which under the proposed RSR would not have been allowed. As a result of not considering these non-routine emissions during the risk assessment for the proposed RSR, U.S. EPA performed a screening assessment of risk associated with these emissions for the final RSR.  The analysis showed that these HAP emissions could increase the MIR based on actual emissions by as much as 2-in-1 million, which results in essentially the same level of risk as was estimated at proposed RSR.

Based on the risk analysis performed for the proposed RSR and the screening assessment that considered the additional non-routine flare and PRD emissions allowed under the final RSR, U.S. EPA determined that the risk posed after implementation is acceptable.  U.S. EPA is seeking comments on the screening analysis and the conclusions reached based on the screening analysis in conjunction with the risk analysis performed for the proposed RSR.

Technical Clarifications

U.S. EPA is proposing to amend provisions related to how to address overlapping requirements for equipment leaks that are contained in Refinery MACT 1 and in the Refinery Equipment Leak NSPS (40 CFR Part 60, Subpart GGGa).  The Refinery MACT 1 currently states that equipment leaks that are subject to the provisions in found in the Refinery Equipment Leak NSPS are only required to comply with the requirements in Refinery Equipment Leak NSPS. Certain provisions of the Refinery MACT 1 detail a work practice standard for the management of releases from PRD.  The proposed revisions would equipment leaks subject to the Refinery Equipment Leak NSPS, must comply with the NSPS provisions, with the exception of PRDs in organic HAP service.  These PRDs will be required to comply with the Refinery MACT 1 requirements found at 40 §63.648(j). U.S. EPA is seeking comments on the proposed language.

Additionally, U.S. EPA is amending the introductory text in 40 CFR §63.648(j) to reference Refinery Equipment Leaks NSPS at 40 CFR §60.482-4a and amending paragraphs (j)(2)(i) through (iii) of Refinery MACT 1 to correct the existing reference to 40 CFR §60.485(b), which should refer to 40 CFR §60.485(c) and 40 CFR §60.485a(c).

Additional information is available in the proposed reconsideration.  Have specific questions?  Reach out to ALL4’s Kristin Gordon or Meghan Barber. Going to the AFPM Environmental Conference in mid-October?  See Kristin, Meghan, Eric Swisher and/or Kayla Turney with the RSR questions.


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