Below are comments from Marathon Petroleum at the Feb. 5, 2019, Detroit City Council meeting regarding the malfunctioning flare at the company’s refinery:
On Sunday , we implemented processes that significantly reduced the amount of material flowing to the flare. By Sunday evening, we had reduced it to zero, which addressed the odor concerns that affected the area. We believe the odor was largely from mercaptan, a substance added to natural gas to give it a detectable odor. We deployed air-monitoring resources on a constant basis, and at no time did they detect dangerous levels of any substances. The U.S. EPA and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality confirmed that there were no readings of concern. We also worked closely with the City of Detroit on this matter. This included the city’s Homeland Security office and the Buildings, Safety, Engineering and Environmental Department.
When we began our response to this incident, we notified the MDEQ, the Detroit Fire Department, the Dearborn Fire Department, Michigan State Police, Homeland Security and others. We worked to ensure a briefing was sent to the members of this honorable council, as well as his honor the mayor’s office. We also notified members of the community by updating our refinery website and sending text messages, phone calls and emails to those who have subscribed to receive those alerts. Throughout our response, we have kept emergency responders, regulatory agencies, and our neighbors informed of our efforts. We have made our air-monitoring data available to the regulatory and emergency response agencies.
As of yesterday evening, we finished removing the contents of various vessels that are connected to the flare. This means we can now de-activate the flare and begin making repairs.
Once we start making repairs, one of our top priorities will be to determine how this incident happened. We believe it was linked to the extreme cold that affected the area last week, but we will rely on our investigation to confirm that. Once we know the cause, we will take corrective actions so that this does not happen again.
After we make the repairs, test the flare, and confirm it is safe, we will begin the process of re-establishing normal operations at the refinery. Our highest priority is the safety of the community where we operate and those who work at our refinery. We apologize to the community for the odor and the inconvenience.