As Limetree Bay Refinery continues preparing for extended or permanent shutdown, the company has announced the next step begins this weekend and will include purging oil and gases from the refinery, reportedly in accordance with an EPA-approved procedure.
“The flare stack will be returned to service for this operation, and we expect a small flame and occasional plumes of steam to be visible at the flare tip,” officials said in a press release.
The flare in question needed repair after a major, explosive flaring that scattered volatile petrochemicals over rooftop drinking water collection systems across a swath of St. Croix in May.
Refinery officials say the stack has been fully repaired, the repairs inspected and validated by independent experts, and the flare was tested under an EPA-approved procedure. According to their release, the company “doesn’t anticipate any odors or other impact to the community from the activity at the refinery, and we will continue to conduct fence-line air monitoring, as usual, to provide additional assurance to our neighbors.”
Preparatory work for the long-term shutdown began at the end of July. Some of these steps were discussed in the company’s release announcing the shutdown in June. Purging residual gases and fluids was anticipated at the outset.
The EPA previously reported Limetree Bay has shared details on those repairs and will also submit a detailed plan for the purging of gases.
Purging the hydrocarbons left from crude oil and partial refining will be a “months-long process” according to the EPA.
The EPA ordered Limetree to pause all operations on May 14. The refinery had unilaterally paused operations days earlier. On July 12, the U.S. Department of Justice took legal action against the refinery and the affiliated oil storage business Limetree Bay Terminals LLC.
The success of Limetree was always predicated on a brief window where it was projected to have an advantage due to changes in marine shipping fuel sulfur regulations. For that reason, it was originally slated to reopen before January of 2020. But it started its brief run one year later, at the end of January 2021.
Limetree Bay restarted part of the former Hovensa refinery, which shuttered operations in 2012, after several years of heavy losses.