Delaware City Refinery: When is enough really enough?

Here’s what the headline says: Refinery quietly postpones Clean Fuels expansion. Here’s what it may as well say: “Sure we’re all about the health and well-being of the community money.”

Back in December of 2011, the Cecil Daily’s website reported that PBF, the owner of the Delaware City Refinery, proposed a $1 billion project to produce clean fuels in Delaware. The plan was to build a ‘mild hydrocracker’ and hydrogen plant on the site which would process crude oil from both this refinery and the sister property in Paulsboro, NJ. The mild hydrocracker would ‘reduce the sulfur content by 99% from 2000 parts per million of sulfur to less than 15 parts per million of sulfur, resulting in a reduction of more than 6500 tons per year of sulfur dioxide emissions’ according to a company release. The article goes on to say that this mild hydrocracker will also ‘enable the refinery to process heavier crude oil while producing a greater volume of clean transportation fuels.’

Delaware’s Governor, Jack Markell, was tickled with this announcement, stating that: “not only will their investment help ensure the long-term viability of the Delaware City and Paulsboro refineries, but will mean hundreds of thousands of man-hours during construction, as well as additional permanent jobs at Delaware City. We are thrilled with today’s announcement.”

Now PBF is saying, yeah, never mind. We’re going with tar sands instead. Company spokesperson Linda Lindsey now says that she can ‘confirm that we are delaying future commitments to Clean Fuels venture’ as reported in Delaware Online on July 21. Now the company’s new focus is on “lower-cost, high sulfur supplies from Canada’s oil sands fields and the shale regions of the Midwest”.  Seems PBF had been dragging their feet in the permitting process for their Clean Fuels expansion project, and now that has been put on the back burner in favor of increasing their deliveries of crude oil by railroad rather than tankers. Now, instead of the creation of Clean Fuels, the area will have to deal with more rail traffic to transport that crude from Canada, North Dakota and Montana to Delaware.

Back in March, the Delaware City Environmental Coalition set up air monitors in three different locations near the Delaware City Refinery to test the air quality. The Refinery itself paid $32,000 last year for baseline testing, and this followup air quality testing was paid for from fines levied by polluters. The results of those tests are here on this PDF from the Delaware City Environmental Coalition’s website, and those results are pretty scary. High levels of sulfur dioxide, benzene, xylenes and other particulate that don’t seem all that healthy to be breathing every day. While no one from the refinery was present when these results were announced to the public, the refinery was given the results, and has had those results since they were released on May 19. At the last community advisory meeting held on 7/17, the refinery stated that they were “still looking into it” according to Sarah Bucic, Co-Chair of the DCEC. If there have been any improvements, they have not been communicated to the public.
You might also remember that we blogged about a continuous release of hydrogen cyanide at this refinery back in October of 2011. The first reports about the hydrogen cyanide release came in to the NRC on October 2nd and continued daily until October 26th.

When do you say, okay, we’re making enough money, now let’s concentrate on the quality of life for those living in the surrounding area of our facility? They talk a good game until the almighty dollar enters their sights. Then all bets are off.