Fluoride Action Network

EPA says Citgo Corpus Christi plant agrees to fine, fix problems

Source: Reuters | May 22nd, 2015 | By Erwin Seba
Location: United States, Texas
Industry type: Oil Refineries

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said on Friday an agreement had been reached with Citgo Petroleum Corp to fix violations found at the company’s Corpus Christi, Texas, refinery.

In addition to corrective actions agreed to with the agency, Citgo will pay a $360,000 civil penalty and give $117,000 to the Corpus Christi Fire Department to purchase equipment to detect and identify suspected chemical leaks, the EPA said.

“Keeping communities and workers safe is the highest priority for EPA’s enforcement program,” said Regional Administrator Ron Curry, in a statement from the agency. “Companies have to be held accountable when they violate these important regulations.”

A Citgo spokesman did not reply to a request for comment about the agreement.

The EPA, acting on a tip from the U.S. Chemical Safety Board, discovered the violations during an unannounced inspection of the 163,000 barrel per day (bpd) refinery in June 2012.

“The inspectors found violations in a range of areas, including equipment and controls, operation and auditing procedures, and initial and ongoing training,” the agency said in a statement.

Citgo will be required to correct each violation as part of the agreement.

The Chemical Safety Board found numerous problems with a system meant to prevent a dangerous release of hydrofluoric acid into the atmosphere following a 2009 fire on an alkylation unit that uses the highly corrosive and poisonous substance.

The CSB found a series of water cannons meant to spray the unit during a release of the acid nearly failed completely, risking a large release of hydrogen fluoride vapor outside of the refinery.

The board found about 4,000 pounds of hydrofluoric acid likely spread outside the refinery, but was carried away from populated areas by prevailing winds.

Citgo was sentenced in 2014 by the U.S. District Court in Corpus Christi to pay more than $2 million in fines after being convicted of violations of the Clean Air Act and Migratory Bird Treaty Act for the operation of two open tanks at the refinery that were used to separate oil from water.