As stewards of the environment, we are dedicated to operating in a way that limits our impact on local communities and their surrounding ecosystems. We are continuously improving our procedures, programs, tools and systems to mitigate risks and advance our environmental performance. We also routinely engage with stakeholders and hold ourselves accountable as a trusted business partner and responsible corporate citizen.
To reduce our environmental impact, we routinely evaluate ways to reduce air emissions from our operations – including nitrogen oxides (NOX), sulfur dioxide (SO2), carbon monoxide (CO), carbon dioxide (CO2), volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and particulate matter (PM). Air emissions at our facilities are carefully managed through robust environmental management systems. We monitor, track and report our emissions data in accordance with federal and state laws and regulations, which also allows us to take specific actions to reduce them. In 2015, air emissions from our facilities decreased by about 15 percent. This reduction is primarily a result of process improvements and the addition of new flare management systems.
We remain committed to implementing programs that will improve air quality and mitigate our impact on the environment, both in onshore and marine operations. In fact, several projects are underway that aim to improve air emissions, including our Los Angeles Refinery Integration and Compliance project and our Clean Products Upgrade Project in Anacortes, Washington. These projects are designed to reduce air emissions at the sites and to produce cleaner transportation fuels.
Reducing Emissions: Flare Management
Reducing flaring at our facilities is important as it helps mitigate air emissions and impacts to the environment. A flare is a safety device used to safely burn excess gas associated with nonstandard operating conditions such as startup and shutdown. We work to manage and minimize flaring in our operations through procedural improvements and equipment installation.
Our facilities are required to have flare minimization plans in place that outline procedures to reduce flaring. For example, at our Los Angeles Refinery, before a maintenance turnaround begins, a
dedicated flare coordinator will work with unit leaders to plan the shutdown and startup procedures in advance to ensure flaring is minimized or eliminated altogether, when possible. While a ‘flareless’ startup/shutdown may take longer, our aim is to safely continue or shut down operations while minimizing our environmental impact. In 2015, we successfully completed a flareless maintenance turnaround at our Los Angeles Refinery and are working to complete many more in the future.
We also reduce flaring through the installation of equipment that helps to capture gas that would normally be burned on a flare and return it to the refinery to be used as a fuel source. Overall, this reduces the amount of hydrocarbons burned and reduces emissions. In addition to a reduction in energy use and air emissions, the upgraded flare gas recovery systems enable more accurate monitoring than the previous systems, which improves the accuracy of our emissions reporting.
By the end of 2015, we successfully installed or upgraded flare gas recovery systems at five of our six refineries, including Anacortes, Mandan, Salt Lake City, Martinez and Los Angeles. In 2016, we will complete the installation of a flare gas recovery system at our Kenai refinery. We remain proactive in our pursuit of new processes and infrastructure that allow us to operate more efficiently
Climate change is an important global issue. In 2015, direct greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) decreased by 3 percent from 2014. We are focused on proactively reducing GHG emissions through various means, as regulations to control GHG emissions will continue, and we know our stakeholders expect it of us.
Our operations include activities such as burning natural gas for fuel and running our process units that create GHGs. They are also created indirectly through the use of third-party steam, hydrogen, chemicals and electricity to operate our facilities.
We seek opportunities to improve our energy and process efficiencies, reduce flare activity where possible, monitor for leaks and other needed repairs, and employ practices such as equipment insulation to minimize energy loss. A careful review of potential impacts, including energy usage and the associated emissions, is an important part of all new project evaluations.
To produce less carbon-intensive fuels, we are working closely with several renewable energy companies to advance the development of biocrude made from renewable biomass. Once available, we plan to co-process the biocrude in our existing refineries which would help meet the demand for low-carbon, advanced biofuels.