The Ontario Ministry of the Environment says it is working on a plan to improve local air quality by more closely monitoring emissions.
The plan, as outlined, would include tracking emissions of sulphur dioxide and working to minimize flaring at refineries in the Sarnia area.
Ministry spokesperson Gary Wheeler has said the “Sarnia Action Plan” is a mulit-year effort “to drive continuous improvement in local air quality with a range of activities to be completed in the short term, medium term and long term.”
Wheeler has said the project involves better understanding of how refineries use flaring, which is used to burn off excess materials such as sulphur, typically done during start-up operations and shutdowns. Flaring also kicks in during a process “upset.”
Dean Edwardson, general manager of the Sarnia-Lambton Environmental Association, has described flaring as the incineration of material that is “no longer part of the manufacturing process that you have to now do something with.”
Another local official, Randy Provencal of Shell, said flaring is sometimes necessary, although Shell tries to minimize the procedure.
That said, flaring is often the safest way of disposing of flammable gas that is not part of a process.
While Stewardson has said that steam and air are used to lessen the impact of flare gases, the Ministry of the Environment is developing new requirements. “We’re working with them to try and understand what they’re asking for and how we’re going to do that,” Stewardson told another media outlet.
The government’s actions are in line with a World Bank initiative that includes putting an end to routine flaring of natural gas from oil production sites by 2030, part of a plan to remove an annual 300 million tons of carbon dioxide emitted worldwide.
Local refinery flaring totals are not part of that number.