St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands
Natalie Loney (212) 637-3639
The HOVENSA facility in Limetree Bay, St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands is a petroleum refinery covering 1,500 acres in what is known as South Industrial Complex, on the south central coast of St. Croix. The facility began operations in 1965 under the ownership of the Hess Oil Virgin Islands Corporation. HOVENSA LLC, which is jointly owned by Hess Corporation and Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A., acquired operational control of the refinery in 1998.
Today, the refinery is one of the 10 largest in the world and the second largest in the United States. The facility’s current design capacity is 545,000 barrels (1 barrel = 42 gallons) of crude oil per day. Over 60 different types of crude oil have been processed at the facility. By means of distillation, crude oil is separated into various components. Light ends (fuel gas) are sent to the facility’s fuel system; naphtha, jet fuel, kerosene and No. 2 oil are further processed to remove sulfur.
Leaks from oil processing and storage have resulted in plumes of oil floating on top of the groundwater underlying the facility. Cleanup at this site is being addressed by HOVENSA under EPA oversight, according to the requirements of the facility’s 1999 Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) Operating Permit. Monitoring wells along the northern perimeter of the facility are sampled semi-annually to detect if oil or other hazardous materials are present. In addition, an ongoing program of leak detection and repair is designed to prevent or minimize further releases. Off-site migration is prevented through a program of maintaining hydraulic control by means of active ground water pumping.
In December 2010, the HOVENSA refinery experienced an airborne release of vaporized and aerosolized material. The release lasted approximately eight minutes and included materials containing a mixture of oil-related chemicals and hydrogen sulfide. EPA immediately initiated investigation and oversight activities including inspecting the affected communities and reviewing air monitoring results.
EPA, the U.S. Department of Justice and HOVENSA LLC entered into a consent decree in January, 2011. Under this agreement, HOVENSA will pay a civil penalty of more than $5.3 million and spend more than $700 million on new pollution controls that will help protect public health and resolve Clean Air Act violations at its refinery. The settlement requires new and upgraded pollution controls, more stringent emission limits, and aggressive monitoring, leak-detection and repair practices to reduce emissions from refinery equipment and process units.
In February 2011, EPA began a three month study of air pollution from the HOVENSA refinery and other sources of air pollution near the facility. EPA has installed air monitors at three locations where the biggest impacts of air pollution from HOVENSA and other facilities would be expected. The agency will measure levels of a class of air pollutants known as volatile organic compounds (VOCs), some of which have serious health effects. Many VOCs are known to cause cancer in animals. Some cause cancer in people, while others have no known health effects. Like other pollutants, the extent and nature of the health effect will depend on many factors including the level and length of exposure.
The community air monitoring study will provide information to EPA and local residents on whether air quality near the monitoring locations poses health concerns and to guide the strategies for reducing local air pollution. EPA will use the information gathered in the study to help determine next steps, which could include additional monitoring or enforcement actions where appropriate.