Martini, lead environmental engineer at the refinery, told a
combined public hearing on Sunoco's applications for air quality
and Coastal Zone Act permits to build and operate a
sulfur-recovery unit that the unit will emit a total of up to
65.1 long tons a year of five regulated pollutants, including
sulfur dioxide, but that the shutdown of three boilers on the
Delaware side of the plant will more than offset that by
eliminating discharges totaling 84 long tons. A long ton is
an average. We hope to do better than that," Paul Braun, senior
environmental engineer, said with reference to the emissions.
agreed to install the new unit to nearly eliminate the necessity
to burn off acid gas produced as a byproduct of refining crude
oil into gasoline and other petroleum products. Doing so
converts hydrogen sulfide into sulfur dioxide, a toxic chemical,
which is released into the air. At present, the refinery sells
the otherwise waste gas to the adjacent General Chemical plant
for use in manufacturing sulfuric acid, an industrial chemical.
Inability of General Chemical to accept the gas, because of
equipment problems and other reasons, has resulted in several
Sunoco 'flaring' incidents. Processing the gas into liquid
sulfur will eliminate that arrangement.
a major complication has arisen. General Chemical, which has
declared bankruptcy along with its parent company, has announced
its intention to close the nearly 90-year-old plant in
September. Sunoco has said it will take two years to build the
sulfur-recovery unit after the necessary permits are received.
Martini testified at the hearing on Mar. 13 that the company
hopes to be able to shorten that timetable but cannot say for
sure that it will be able to do so.
on what will happen with the gas during the time between the
General Chemical closure and availability of the new unit,
Martini said the refinery "will comply with our [present]
permit" which allows 'flaring' discharges only in the event of
emergencies and a limited number of other situations. Asked to
explain how it will be able to comply, he replied, "I can't talk
about that." The interim problem, strictly speaking, is not part
of the process for considering the new permits.
did testify earlier in the hearing that Sunoco will "do
everything we can to shorten the time frame in which this thing
can be built."
previously reported that company officials have told public
officials and civic leaders that it is considering up to six
options for temporary measures to handle the situation, but
evidently did not disclose what they are other than to say
Sunoco has rejected the idea of subsidizing that part of the
General Chemical operation. A spokesperson at Sunoco's corporate
headquarters in Philadelphia responded to a Delaforum inquiry on
the matter by citing a reaction statement issued at the time
General Chemical announced its plans which expressed
disappointment over the development but did not say what will
that the technology Sunoco intends to use to recover sulfur is
nearly 100 years old and is widely used in the industry -- which
Martini confirmed -- Alan Muller, executive director of Green
Delaware, said: "Even Motiva has been operating [that kind of]
sulfur-recovery unit for decades. ... Can't we [sic] do better?"
which has a refinery near Delaware City, has been involved with
extensive environmental problems.
Savage, of the Delaware Audubon Society, questioned whether
Sunoco's planned unit complies with the Clean Air Act's
requirement to use the best technology that is available.
"Release of 39 tons of sulfur dioxide is unacceptable," she
said. That is the amount of that chemical that Sunoco asks the
permit to allow, offset by elimination of 50.7 tons by the
shutdown. of the boilers.
testified that the new unit will be 99.5% efficient in capturing
sulfur. It will have two streams, either one of which is capable
of handling all the acid gas the refinery generates and neither
of which will be used to process gas from other locations. He
described the technology as "proven state-of-the-art."
new unit is operating, he added, the refinery "will comply with
all state and federal regulations" governing environmental
that Sunoco intends to sell the recovered sulfur, which will be
transported from the refinery in heated tank trucks to keep it
in liquid form, but said he did not know to whom nor whether
that business will be profitable.
frustrated by several instances of Martini's inability or
unwillingness to answer some of his technical and
quasi-technical questions, Muller called for the natural
resources department to either hold another public hearing or
deny the permits on the grounds that "there are too many
Department officials Dennis Brown and Paul Foster said the
department's review of Sunoco's applications for the permits,
along with subsequent responses to requests for additional
information, found them 'administratively complete' and,
therefore, acceptable at this stage of the process to justify
granting the requested permits.
officer Rod Thompson denied Muller's earlier request to recess
the hearing "until we can get someone [from the company] here
who can answer the questions." Martini and Braun were the only
persons to speak on behalf of Sunoco at the hearing.
hearing, George Lossť, president of the Claymont Coalition, told
Delaforum that he is satisfied that Sunoco is addressing the
'flaring' problem in an acceptable manner. "If DNREC is
satisfied [with the applications], the community is satisfied,"
he said. "The important thing is to get this done quickly." The
coalition has spearheaded community response to the situation
and, to a large degree, instigated the response which led to the
agreement to build the sulfur-recovery unit. Lossť did not
testify at the hearing.
environmental representatives were, if anything, more critical
of the environmental control department than they were of
that a set of 'groundrules' distributed before the hearing ruled
out discussing eight points -- including the General Chemical
situation and what happens on the Pennsylvania side of the
refinery, which is much bigger than the Delaware side -- Mary
Ann McGonegal, of Common Cause of Delaware, said that rendered
the hearing "a sham." She intimated that the exclusions were the
result of the department's "collusion" with the company to
enable it to make its case in the best possible light.
said the 'groundrules' were an interim arrangement decided upon
by John Hughes, environmental secretary in the governor's
cabinet and executive head of the department, pending the
drafting of new rules and procedures for conducting public
hearings. Nevertheless, he was liberal in enforcing them at the
hearing. For instance, he allowed testimony to the effect that
the three boilers to be shut down in the Delaware side will be
join four on the other side to be replaced by a new electricity
plant to be built for Florida Power & Light on leased space on
the Pennsylvania side of the refinery. That plant will
provide steam to the refinery but mainly is intended to enable
the utility company to enter the commercial electricity market
in this region.
no indication when Hughes will decide on whether to issue the
permits to Sunoco nor what other federal or Pennsylvania permits
are required before construction of the new unit can begin.