New regulation to help reduce sulphur dioxide emissions from Ontario petroleum facilities

ERO number
013-4126
Notice type
Regulation
Posted by
Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks
Notice stage
Decision
Decision posted
Comment period
November 15, 2018 - December 15, 2018 (30 days) Closed

This consultation was open from:
November 15, 2018
to December 15, 2018

Decision summary

We are implementing new regulations to ensure technological changes to reduce sulphur dioxide emissions from Ontario petroleum facilities are made in a timely manner. This will improve how flaring events are managed and strengthen accountability through reporting, monitoring and environmental penalties.

Decision details

Air quality in Ontario

We are committed to taking action to address all sources of air contaminants because we know that clean air is critical for human health and the health of our environment.

Air quality in Ontario continues to improve significantly with large reductions in the levels of many harmful pollutants, including nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide, sulphur dioxide, and fine particulate matter.

While improvements have been made, Ontario continues to do more to support air quality in the province. The government is implementing a new regulation that would increase accountability and help ensure that petroleum facilities reduce their emissions of sulphur dioxide.

New requirements for petroleum facilities

Under the new regulation, petroleum facilities in Ontario will now be required to:

  • notify the ministry of sulphur dioxide flaring-type incidents that exceed a threshold, and post emitted amounts on a website
  • within 60 days of flaring-type incidents that exceed the threshold, report to the ministry on the root cause of the incident and corrective and preventive actions to be taken
  • calculate sulphur dioxide emissions from flaring-type incidents and, within three years, install continuous emissions monitoring equipment and have it operational within an additional six months
  • assess the efficiency of their sulphur recovery units
  • submit a plan to the ministry for reducing flaring-type incidents and a plan to reduce other sulphur dioxide emissions by July 1, 2020
  • post a summary of the plan for minimizing the emissions from flaring-type incidents on a company website by December 31, 2020 and post updates each subsequent year.

These requirements align with similar requirements in other jurisdictions, such as the U.S.

The regulation would also tailor requirements to the specific operations of individual petroleum facilities based on site-specific circumstances.

As part of the regulation, we will require facilities to provide calculated emissions information after each flaring incident. Based on these emissions calculations, we may issue an environmental penalty where a specified emission threshold is exceeded.

Until July 1, 2023, certain flare modelling and the upper risk threshold provisions of the Local Air Quality Regulation (Ontario Regulation 419/05) will not apply.

All other provisions of the regulation, including the ability to require incident-specific modelling, will continue to apply.

We will continue to work with facilities to ensure that they achieve one of the compliance pathways by the time the updated sulphur dioxide standard comes into effect on July 1, 2023.

Sulphur dioxide discharge threshold

The regulation establishes a threshold of 225 kilograms for sulphur dioxide discharges from flaring-type incidents in a 24-hour period.

Facilities are required to provide calculated (and eventually measured) emissions information for each flaring-type incident.

We have also amended the Environmental Penalties regulation (Ontario Regulation 222/07) so an environmental penalty can be issued when a flaring event exceeds the threshold for sulphur dioxide discharges.

Background

We amended Ontario’s local air quality regulation (O. Reg. 419/05: Air Pollution – Local Air Quality) in July 2018 to address concerns with sulphur dioxide emissions in Ontario. The amendments introduced:

  • updated sulphur dioxide air standards, phasing in by 2023, to better protect human health and the environment
  • an upper risk threshold, effective January 1, 2019, to manage the risks associated with sulphur dioxide emissions while the new standards are being phased in and to inform air approvals decision after the new standards take effect
  • a requirement for petroleum facilities to model acid gas flaring beginning on July 1, 2018.

The Local Air Quality Regulation has three compliance pathways. A facility can:

  • meet the air standard
  • request and meet a site-specific standard
  • register to and comply with a technical standard, if one exists

The site-specific standard and technical standard pathways recognize that certain facilities or sectors may have technological challenges in meeting the air standard.

Technical standards and site-specific standards allow facilities to continually improve over time to reduce emissions as much as possible using technology and best management practices.

For petroleum facilities that discharge sulphur dioxide, it is anticipated that site-specific or technical standards will be required.

Because these standards take time to develop, we passed this new regulation to exempt petroleum facilities from the regulatory requirements relating to modelling acid gas flaring until July 1, 2023. Petroleum facilities will be required to take immediate action to reduce sulphur dioxide emissions with a set of rules to reduce sulphur dioxide that are publicly transparent.

All other provisions of the local air quality regulation (O. Reg. 419/05), including the ability to require incident-specific modelling, will continue to apply to petroleum facilities.

We will continue to work with facilities to ensure that they achieve compliance by the time the updated sulphur dioxide standard comes into effect on July 1, 2023.

Comments received

Through the registry

7

By email

6

By mail

0
View comments submitted through the registry

Effects of consultation

What we heard

We considered all feedback received during the comment period for this posting.

The comments were generally supportive of the requirements in the new regulation and the introduction of environmental penalties. Some suggested that the regulation will better define and accelerate certain initiatives to better manage sulphur dioxide flaring incidents at Ontario’s refineries.

Below is a summary of the concerns that were raised and how we considered them in developing the final regulation.

Installing monitoring equipment and incident reporting

Affected facilities raised concerns with the:

  • timelines for installing the continuous emissions monitoring equipment
  • value set to trigger incident reporting and environmental penalties

The timeline for the installation of the monitoring systems and the threshold value for root cause analysis both align with the approach used by the USEPA.

Transparency

Some comments suggested that information on incidents and corrective action reports should be shared with the community and local medical officer of health.

The regulation will enhance the broad sharing of information that is already in place. For example, facilities will have to post online:

  • the amounts of sulphur dioxide they release, if they burn acid gas and release more than 225 kg of sulphur dioxide in a 24-hour period
  • summaries of their flare/acid gas combustion minimization plans

We also have an established process for sharing modelling results with the community and local health units, which we will continue to use and enhance.

All of this public sharing of information is supplemented by the Clean Air Sarnia and Area website that has five near real-time sulphur dioxide monitors. Sulphur dioxide concentrations from each monitor are updated every hour.

Flare modelling and upper risk threshold requirements

Some comments expressed concern that the flare modelling and upper risk threshold provisions of O. Reg. 419/05 will not apply until 2023.

As a result of external consultations and internal review, we refined the proposal with respect to the upper risk threshold (URT) requirements.

Rather than a full exemption from the URT provision, a facility is only exempt in respect of flaring-type incidents. The URT provision will continue to apply as usual to all other discharges of sulphur dioxide from a facility.

Available data suggests that the 225 kg threshold will result in more notifications than the URT. Requirements to reduce the impacts of flaring will be put into place quicker as compared to the status quo.

Modelling exemptions

Concerns were raised about the exemption related to modelling requirements in the Local Air Quality Regulation. This concern centred on what would be lost as compared to the status quo.

This regulation will result in facilities taking action faster than the status quo. If a facility is out of compliance with the sulphur dioxide standard, it will have to submit an abatement plan and work through the technology-based standard process. This regulation requires some of the actions that would have been contemplated in individual abatement plans to occur sooner, and more consistently across all facilities.

Amendments to the environmental penalty regulation also introduces environmental penalties, an additional abatement tool to encourage facilities to prevent sulphur dioxide discharges. If a facility discharges more than 225 kg of sulphur dioxide, it must analyze the root cause and report on corrective action. This is also the threshold for the penalty to apply. Modelling indicates that this threshold is more stringent than the URT/air standard concentration limit.

This means that facilities will have to notify us of more acid gas flaring events. Events that don’t meet the threshold will be considered in each facility’s acid gas combustion minimization plan annual update.

Incident-based modelling provision

One comment suggested that the incident-based modelling provision should be mandatory. Routinely requiring incident-based modelling will demonstrate the potential health impacts from acid gas combustion. Such modelling can still be ordered under the Local Air Quality Regulation.

Regulatory Impact Statement

Timing

Certain requirements in the existing Local Air Quality Regulation to model acid gas flares will be postponed until 2023. This will ensure facilities will not be out of compliance with the air standard based on flare modelling while we work together to develop technology-based solutions to address sulphur dioxide emissions.

Flexibility

The new regulation recognizes that each facility will have unique challenges and opportunities for reducing sulphur dioxide emissions.

There are provisions under the regulation for each facility to move ahead with measures that align with the emissions reduction goal in a cost-effective manner. We will consider additional sulphur dioxide reduction measures when we develop the industry standard.

Costs

This new regulation does not impose additional costs to facilities that are expected to comply with the existing Local Air Quality Regulation.

Supporting materials

View materials in person

Some supporting materials may not be available online. If this is the case, you can request to view the materials in person.

Get in touch with the office listed below to find out if materials are available.

Local Air Quality Permits
Address

40 St. Clair Avenue West
7th Floor
Toronto ON M4V 1M2
Canada

Office phone number

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Original proposal

ERO number
013-4126
Notice type
Regulation
Posted by
Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks
Proposal posted

Comment period

November 15, 2018 - December 15, 2018 (30 days)

Proposal details

Air quality in Ontario

We are committed to taking action to address all sources of air contaminants because we know that clean air is critical for human health and the health of our environment.

Air quality in Ontario continues to improve significantly with large reductions in the levels of many harmful pollutants, including nitrogen dioxide, carbon  monoxide, sulphur dioxide, and fine particulate matter.

While improvements have been made, Ontario continues to do more to support air quality in the province.

The government is proposing a new regulation that would increase accountability by petroleum facilities to reduce emissions of sulphur dioxide.

Background

On July 1, 2018, the Local Air Quality Regulation (Ontario Regulation 419/05) was amended to require facilities in the petroleum sector to model discharges of sulphur dioxide under flaring conditions.

Upper risk threshold for sulphur dioxide

An upper risk threshold for sulphur dioxide was also introduced as part of these regulatory amendments. An upper risk threshold is used to:

  • manage the risks associated with a contaminant while an air standard is being phased in
  • inform approvals decisions after the air standard takes effect

Facilities are required to:

  • notify the ministry if an upper risk threshold is exceeded&
  • develop plans to reduce their emissions

Air standard for sulphur dioxide

As part of the 2018 regulatory amendments, the air standard for sulphur dioxide was updated to 100 micrograms per cubic metre of air (μg/m3) over a one-hour averaging period.

The new standard will come into force on July 1, 2023.

Compliance

The Local Air Quality Regulation has three compliance pathways. A facility can:

  • meet the air standard
  • request and meet a site-specific standard
  • register to and comply with a technical standard, if one exists

The site-specific standard and technical standard pathways recognize that certain facilities or sectors may have technological challenges in meeting the air standard. Technical standards and site-specific standards allow facilities to continually improve over time to reduce emissions as much as possible using technology and best management practices.

For petroleum facilities that discharge sulphur dioxide, it is anticipated that site-specific or technical standards will be required.

These standards take time to develop. In order to support more immediate action, we are proposing a regulation that would improve management of flaring events and greater accountability through reporting, enhanced monitoring and the introduction of environmental penalties.

Proposal overview

Proposed requirements for petroleum facilities

Under the proposed regulation, petroleum facilities in Ontario would now be required to:

  • calculate sulphur dioxide emissions from flaring incidents and, within two to four years, install continuous in-stack monitoring equipment
  • report sulphur dioxide flaring incidents
  • submit reports to the ministry that analyze the root cause of flaring incidents and set out corrective and preventive actions to be taken
  • submit plans to the ministry for reducing emissions of sulphur dioxide and flaring incidents at the facility within one year
  • engage the local community about sulphur dioxide emissions and plans to address the emissions

These actions align with similar requirements in other jurisdictions, such as the U.S.

The proposed regulation would also tailor requirements to the specific operations of individual petroleum facilities based on site-specific circumstances.

As part of the proposed regulation, we will require facilities to provide calculated emissions information on a periodic basis for normal operations and after each flaring incident. Based on these emissions calculations, we may issue an environmental penalty where a specified emission threshold is exceeded.

Until July 1, 2023, when the facilities are complying with the new requirements, it is proposed that the flare modeling and upper risk threshold provisions of the Local Air Quality Regulation (Ontario Regulation 419/05) will not apply.

All other provisions of the regulation, including the ability to require incident-specific modelling, will continue to apply.

We will continue to work with facilities to ensure that they achieve one of the compliance pathways by the time the updated sulphur dioxide standard comes into effect on July 1, 2023.

Supporting materials

View materials in person

Some supporting materials may not be available online. If this is the case, you can request to view the materials in person.

Get in touch with the office listed below to find out if materials are available.

Local Air Quality Permits
Address

40 St. Clair Avenue West
7th Floor
Toronto ON M4V 1M2
Canada

Office phone number

Comment

Commenting is now closed.

This consultation was open from November 15, 2018
to December 15, 2018

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