Let The Polluting Begin Anew!

You still may not have electricity, ice, Internet access or Starbucks access, but the petrochemical plants of Southeast Texas are slowly cranking up again after the bastard Ike came and left.

Frankly, it's an awesome undertaking starting everything up again. The process will continue, in some cases, for the next couple weeks.

Already, one huge facility, Dow Chemical in Freeport, has asked the state regulators to be understanding and "use enforcement discretion" when they evaluate if all the environmental rules are followed during the post-Ike industrial awakening.

But wait! There could be problems.

ConocoPhillips in Sweeny, for example, says it could have trouble keeping all 10 of its flares from flaming out "due to high winds."

(Flares are those tall, flaming pipes you see from the highway that are designed to burn up 98-99 percent of the contaminants, such as benzene, etc., that many of these places release when resuming operations.)

The volume of substances that are released to flares and such during their start-up process is gargantuan.

Over at the ExxonMobil refinery in Baytown, for example, 602,847 pounds of carbon monoxide will be released to a single flare.

At least one plant suffered a contaminant release when it was shut down during Ike, so the stuff it released never made it to a flare.

Houston Refining, on Lawndale in east Houston, developed a leak at its tank farm that wasn't fixed for nearly four hours a couple days ago.

Based on the size of the leak's hole, Houston Refining gave this "fugitive emissions" total: 617 pounds of 1-butene, 1,934 pounds of butanes, 471pounds of Cis-2-butene, 855 ounds of isobutylene, 709 pounds of trans-2-butene.

Hair Balls is pretty sure nothing blew up, though.

-- Steve Olafson

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