Thursday, December 29, 2022

Cold Weather Triggers Another Suncor Pollution Event - Just Before The Holidays

The Suncor refinery at the heart of state pollution issues

 For many Coloradans Suncor refinery is a place best shut down and the sooner the better, given numerous pollution incidents, e.g.  

The Suncor Energy Saga Continues In Colorado With More Litigation Following Devastating Climate Effects

 But let's be clear that isn't going to happen anytime soon, maybe not until massive new solar energy operations arrive, or nuclear fusion.  Though I would not hold my breath waiting for the latter, i.e.

Media Overhypes Nuclear Fusion Laser Experiment 

The reason for forbearance is simple: Suncor is the only oil and gas refinery in Colorado and processes 98,000 barrels of oil a day - a key economic support. It also manufactures most of the asphalt used to pave Colorado's hundreds of miles of roads, highways.    

Which is why the most recent event, last Wednesday, was also guaranteed to bring out the anti-fossil fuel lobby.  This event - or events - occurred in the aftermath of a shutdown triggered by extreme cold across the refinery's operations. Tons of harmful pollutants were spewed into the atmosphere.  These included, according to a Denver Post report: hydrogen sulfide, sulfur dioxide, as well as visible emissions with high opacity. (Which Suncor refers to as an "Opacity event".)  In one of the last such major events, in 2020, ash fall was seen and covered cars in Adams County, and we learned:  

"Suncor reported 34 malfunctions  and 111 pollution spikes lasting from a few minutes to several days."

So the people in Colorado, and especially living in Commerce City, have grown more pollutant wary over the years.  In the meantime, according to the Post, "state officials are now assessing the potential public health risks as Suncor provides more information." But we do know the sources of the specific pollutants appear to have come from different Plants (e.g. 1,2, and 3) on the premises as well as at least onc incinerator.  For example, the SO2 emissions came mainly from the Plant 1 Sulfur incinerator.  

The state's Air Pollution Control Division is now monitoring the data provided by Suncor, as well as another oversight local nonprofit  (Cultivando) that servies as a watchdog group.

The shutdown itself started at 8 p.m. last Wednesday when the cold weather caused Suncor's hydrogen plant to trip. As a result, community members affected had to be put on alert - as with previous incidents. (The shutdown and effluent was still going on by 1 p.m. Friday)

The Denver Post noted that Suncor is required to report any additional changes to the Colorado Dept. of Public Health as long as the effects lasted.  One hopes this will be the last for a while, but I would not bet the farm on it.

See Also:

What's polluting Colorado's air? 125 million tons a year of heat ...


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