September 3-10, 2007

Imperial Oil fined $100K for SO2 release from Sarnia refinery

SARNIA. ONT-Imperial Oil Limited was fined $100,000 and levied a victim fine surcharge after pleading guilty to discharging sulfur dioxide (SO2) from its Sarnia oil refinery complex into the atmosphere at levels in excess of regulatory air quality limits. The company produces its own fuel gas to burn in the refinery furnaces. On the night of December 6, 2005, a pump failure caused an increase inn hydrogen sulfide (H2S) levels in the fuel gas. Upon combustion, the H2S in the fuel gas was converted to SO2, which was emitted to the atmosphere from the plant's stacks. At the time of the pump failure, Imperial had no alarm to warn of higher-than-normal H2S concentrations in the fuel gas, nor was there an emergency protocol in place for responding to such a situation. Immediately after the incident, the company took corrective action, including the installation of an alarm system to detect elevated H2S in the fuel gas system and the development of process response procedures to prevent similar recurrences. There were no reports or complaints of off-site impacts and local air monitoring data did not reveal any abnormal SO2 levels at the station where this compound is measured. It was noted, however, that the wind was not blowing that way during the event. Nevertheless, following an investigation by the Ministry of Environment, Imperial was charged with violating section 18(2) of Regulation 419/05, as amended, under the Environmental Protection Act, by discharging a contaminant (SO2) into the air that resulted in an exceedance of the half-hour standard set out for the contaminant in Schedule 1 of Regulation 419/05. The company has been given 45 days to pay the fine.

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