Air quality advocates applaud installation of ‘wet gas scrubber’ at Utah refinery

SALT LAKE CITY -- A local air quality group is thrilled with the progress to further reduce emissions from Utah’s largest refinery.

Breathe Utah’s policy director, Ashley Miller, applauds the new ‘wet gas scrubber’ machine Andeavor is using in Salt Lake City.

“My literal initial reaction was ‘Woohoo!' It’s really important to continue to do these things that this refinery is doing,” Miller said.

Brad Schafer, Andeavor’s public affairs manager, said Andeavor has been building the wet gas scrubber for the last year and it went online on Thursday.

It looks like a tall, silver tower, which drivers can see along I-15. It will be shooting steam up into the air, but to most people it will look like smoke even though it's not.

“People will see a white plume coming out of that stack,” Schafer said. “We want folks to know that plume is water vapor—steam.”

The refinery already cuts out direct particulate matter 2.5 particles. Before the wet gas scrubber started scrubbing certain chemicals out of their emissions, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides were also released into the air. And while those are not harmful particulates, they are precursors to eventually mix into the atmosphere and become PM 2.5.

“We are reducing emissions with this wet gas scrubber by 95 percent,” Schafer said. “It actually is a rather simple process. We treat the stream from exhaust gasses coming from our refinery process, we spray them with water in this piece of new equipment, and a scrubbing agent that removes the dust from our emissions as well as the sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide. What comes out the top of that stack is a greatly reduced stream of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides and Co2… and steam!”

In the last five years, Andeavor said it has spent $300 million on projects to reduce and control emissions. The wet gas scrubber was one of those projects.

The next project is for Andeavor to produce “Tier 3” fuel, which is a much cleaner, lower sulfur fuel for Utah’s drivers to use.

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