As clean up efforts continue across Texas after the rounds of wintry weather and record-cold temperatures, reports are emerging of different effects the storms had on the state. One of which is pollution being emitted by oil refineries along the Gulf Coast.
As snow and ice shut travel down across Texas, oil refineries lost most of their supplies to keep their plants working. With no supplies to sustain themselves, the plants were required to shut down. In doing so, they needed to start “flaring,” or burning of their in-house gasses, to prevent damage to their processing systems.
According to reports from Reuters, black smoke billowing from the plants’ flaring darkened the skies and could be seen for miles.
Reuters reported “The five largest refiners emitted nearly 337,000 pounds of pollutants, including benzene, carbon monoxide, hydrogen sulfide and sulfur dioxide, according to preliminary data supplied to the Texas Commission on Environment Quality (TCEQ).”
“There is no safe amount of benzene for human exposure,” said Sharon Wilson, a researcher at advocacy group Earthworks.
Flaring continued for much of last week as cold temperatures made for a slow melting of the road network across Texas. Wilson says that only made things worse since preparations, such as winterizing equipment, could have prevented the need for plants to flare.
The TCEQ reports total pollution at Houston-area facilities during the cold snap totaled about 703,000 pounds, about 3% of the total pollution over permitted amounts for all of 2019 and almost 10% of 2018’s releases.