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North Carolina Regulated Largest Oil Refineries

Regulators of North Carolina on Wednesday directed two of the state’s largest Oil refineries to slash their fine particulate air pollution, which will require costly modifications at the plants. The 19-3 vote by the Bay Area Air Quality Management District governing board means refineries in the area, including Chevron Corp’s Richmond plant and PBF Energy Inc’s Martinez refinery.

They will have to install wet gas scrubbers to reduce pollution spewed by their gasoline-making fluid catalytic cracking units within five years. The new requirement is expected to cut PBF and Chevron’s particulate matter emissions from its cat crackers by about 70%, the air quality district estimates.

Refineries emit heavy amounts of pollution as crude Oil is processed into fuel, and small particulate matter consisting of solid or liquid airborne particles is among the most harmful pollutants. Prolonged exposure is known to lead to respiratory, pulmonary and cognitive health problems.FCCUs, which turn heavier crude Oil into lighter petroleum products including gasoline, are among the largest polluters of fine particulate matter in the San Francisco Bay area. Under the amended rule, refineries with FCCUs must limit annual emissions of particulate matter to 0.01 grain per dry standard cubic foot within the next five years.

Both the refiners expected to be affected by the rule change urged regulators to consider a less stringent 0.02 limit by 2023. Valero Energy Corp Benicia refinery has a wet gas scrubber. Refiners and their advocates, including refinery labor unions, said upgrading the FCCUs would cost hundreds of millions of dollars, lead to refinery layoffs and put pressure on the plants to shut down. Running the wet gas scrubbers would also require excessive water use in an already parched area.

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