January 22, 2007

Catalyst release leads to $100K fine for Imperial Oil

SARNIA, ONT-Imperial Oil has been fined $100,000 and levied a victim fine surcharge after being convicted of discharging a significant quantity of sand-like material from its Sarnia refinery that settled on a residential area in nearby Corunna. The August 2002 release from the facility occurred following a process upset and automatic safety shutdown of the catalytic cracking unit (also referred to as a fluidized catcracker). The unit produces a component used in making gasoline and other petroleum products. Once the catcracker had shut down, facility staff added 60 to 80 tons of catalyst to the unit, which already contained a sufficient quantity of catalyst. The addition resulted in a significant overload, in turn causing excess sand-like catalyst to escape from the unit and then the refinery itself. The material was carried by winds to Corunna, a residential area south of Sarnia. Calls to the Ministry of Environment (MOE) from 73 residents of this area complained of particulate fallout on their homes and vehicles. Imperial Oil acknowledged, to the MOE and the public, that its facility was the source of the catalyst fallout and estimated that between 65 and 77 tons of catalyst were discharged. Following an investigation by the MOE's investigations and enforcement branch, the company was charged with discharging a contaminant into the natural environment that caused the loss of enjoyment and/or of normal use of property, contrary to section 14(1) of the Environmental Protection Act. Imperial Oil has spent approximately $1.2 million to help the residents clean up their vehicles and homes.

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