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Ferndale Refinery gets new safety flare system

Workers make preparations to install a 199-foot-tall safety flare system at the Phillips 66 Ferndale Refinery on March 10, 2015. This state-of-the-art system will be more efficient, both from an energy and environmental perspective.
Workers make preparations to install a 199-foot-tall safety flare system at the Phillips 66 Ferndale Refinery on March 10, 2015. This state-of-the-art system will be more efficient, both from an energy and environmental perspective. Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

Residents near the Phillips 66 Ferndale Refinery will see flames when excess gases must be burned off, but it will be safer and produce less black smoke.

The company recently completed construction of a 199-foot-tall safety flare system that will improve energy efficiency as well as lessen the impact on the environment, said Jeff Callender, communications manager at Phillips 66.

“While the elevated flare will be more visible during the occasional flaring event, the public can be assured the new system will be safer, more efficient and better for the environment,” Callender said in an informational postcard mailed out to neighbors.

The old system uses a ground-level safety flare system that’s been around in some form for decades. The new system uses steam to promote combustion efficiency, minimizing the smoke during a flare operation. The new system will reduce the number of natural gas pilot lights from 60 to four, reducing energy output, Callender said.

The transition from the old to new system will take place in the coming weeks.

Putting in the new system will mean less smoke and pollution in the air, said Katie Skipper of the Northwest Clean Air Agency.

“This new system burns everything efficiently, and that’s a good thing,” she said. “It is definitely an upgrade.”

To avoid venting gas into the air, the refinery uses a recovery system to capture gas and recirculate it. When the refinery is unable to recirculate the gases, they are sent to the safety flare system and burned. Callender said sending gases to the flare system happens infrequently; he recalls it happening twice so far in 2015.

Along with the postcards, Callender said he’s been reaching out to nearby neighborhood associations and emergency officials, letting people know about the change.

The new system is part of a plan started by the refinery to reduce its energy output by 10 percent. It was also named an Energy Star refinery, one of four in the U.S. to receive the designation. In getting its Energy Star designation, it was noted the Ferndale refinery made major revisions to its heat recovery systems in 2007 and 2012.

Reach Dave Gallagher at 360-715-2269 or dave.gallagher@bellinghamherald.com.

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