Suncor’s latest leak did not violate emissions regulations, state says

Suncor Energy’s oil refinery in Commerce City released propane vapors into the air on Jan. 31 but did not violate any emissions limits, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment said.

The release triggered an alert from the refinery’s public notification system. No injuries were reported during the incident, the company’s alerts said.

Suncor identified the propane leak as a “vapor leak.” The leak was in a processing unit in Plant 1 near Brighton Boulevard, said Kate Malloy, a spokeswoman for the state health department’s Air Pollution Control Division.

The unit is a piece of equipment that has been shut down since a December malfunction that caused Suncor to shutter its facility through the first three months of this year.

The unit still had pressurized gas in the system, Malloy said in an email. Suncor informed state air quality regulators that it isolated the leak and depressurized that section of piping.

Loa Esquilin Garcia, a Suncor spokeswoman, said the leak did not set back the company’s maintenance at the refinery and did not interfere with its plans to restart operations by the end of the first quarter.

“Our priority is to restart safely,” Garcia said.

Suncor first stopped operations during an extreme cold spell on Dec. 21 that tripped its hydrogen plant. On Dec. 24, a fire erupted at the refinery, and the company decided to stop producing gasoline, diesel, jet fuel and asphalt for at least the first quarter of 2023 while it repairs equipment damaged by the cold and does other maintenance.

The malfunctions caused the refinery to exceed the amount of pollutants it emits into the air and water. Since Dec. 21, the company has reported excessive emissions of hydrogen sulfide, sulfur dioxide and benzene.

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