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Woods Cross refinery says expansion would decrease emissions

By Alex Cabrero | Posted - Jan 23rd, 2013 @ 6:50pm


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WOODS CROSS — Amidst all the bad air we are breathing, a Utah oil refinery has plans to produce more oil and reduce its emissions at the same time.

Holly Refining and Management Company is asking the state for a permit to increase oil production at its Woods Cross refinery. Despite public concern, company officials say they'll be able to cut back on emissions with new technology.

Michael Astin, environmental manager for Holly Refining, said a permit would allow his company to increase oil production from 40,000 barrels a day to 60,000 barrels a day.

"It's to enhance our business and to increase the work we're doing here," Astin explained.

But more work means more emissions, right? Wrong.

Even though production at the plant would increase, Astin said its emissions will actually decrease thanks to new equipment.

"That's one of the things we've proposed — tying into this new equipment we're putting in to remove those emissions and have significant reductions in our SO2 emissions," Astin said.

SO2 is sulfur dioxide, the biggest emission the refinery has. The company has been permitted to release more emissions than it has been releasing; and with the new equipment, company leaders predict even fewer emissions, which allows the permitted emissions to decrease.

"Bringing it up to the newest technology, the newest standards, are an important part of the review process that we're undergoing," said Bryce Bird, the director of the Utah Division of Air Quality.

The increased production permit would have to come from the Division of Air Quality. But so far, Bird said the refinery seems to be on the right track.

"The expansion is looking at increasing their production, but actually focusing on decreasing their actual emissions," Bird said.

Of course, not everyone agrees with the expansion plans. Some health groups think there should be less production, especially on red air quality days.

There is still a public comment period regarding all of this before a permit is issued. Visit the Utah Division of Air Quality's website to share your thoughts.

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