DEP finds no hazards after N.J. refinery malfunction

The PBF Energy refinery near Paulsboro spews out more than the usual plume of fumes after a malfunction. State and local officials investigated and found no hazardous materials in the emissions.
The PBF Energy refinery near Paulsboro spews out more than the usual plume of fumes after a malfunction. State and local officials investigated and found no hazardous materials in the emissions. (CHARLES FOX / Staff Photographer)
Posted: January 09, 2014

PAULSBORO State and local officials monitoring a malfunction at a petroleum refinery near Paulsboro said no hazardous materials were released with the columns of smoke that rose Tuesday.

But authorities said the cold weather could cause a problem.

Paulsboro Fire Chief Alfonso G. Giampola said a power outage at the refinery shut down the steam at an ExxonMobil lubrication plant in Paulsboro.

"We're concerned about the sprinkler system freezing," Giampola said.

Schools were briefly ordered to shelter in place Tuesday afternoon, Giampola said. The order was lifted after monitoring showed air quality was fine.

The malfunction at the refinery owned by PBF Energy was reported to the state Department of Environmental Protection just after 11 a.m. As a result of a loss of steam, the refinery began a "controlled, orderly shutdown of most processing units," PBF spokesman Michael Karlovich said.

That shutdown involved "flaring" operations, the burning of gases to control pressure in the refinery. Flaring is normal, Karlovich said, and "part of an inherent safety design."

"Large flames coming out of the flaring towers," and accompanying columns of smoke, were monitored by DEP workers with handheld air-quality monitors, DEP spokesman Larry Hajna said. Those picked up safe levels of "typical combustion products" such as smoke, he said, but did not detect any hazardous materials.

Authorities monitored for sulfur dioxide but did not detect any.

The wind buffeting the region helped clear the smoke throughout the day, Hajna said.


jlai@phillynews.com

856-779-3220 @elaijuh

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