Can Compliance with New Air Monitoring Regs. Lower Refinery Costs and Risk?

New California Regulations Pose Challenges and Potential Economic Benefits for Industrial Facilities

States like California are well on their way to implementing laws, rules, and regulations that call for more community ambient air quality monitoring and greater transparency from the chemical industry. For instance, California Assembly Bill 617, signed into law this July, establishes a statewide air monitoring network and calls for greater community air quality monitoring in and around chemical facilities. At the same time Assembly Bill 1647, signed into law earlier this month, directs local air pollution control and air quality districts with setting designing, developing, installing, operating, and maintaining refinery-related community air monitoring systems.

Currently the EPA only approves sorbent tubes for benzene fenceline monitoring, with other technologies receiving approval on a case-by-case basis.

California’s Air Quality Monitoring Districts have already moved forward with proposed rules and regulations to boost facility and community air monitoring. The Southern California and Bay Area Air Quality Monitoring Districts have rules (Rule 1180 and Regulation 12 Rule 15) that call for improved fenceline monitoring solutions around refineries. Both rules build on EPA rule 325 A/B by requiring fenceline monitoring; however, they address more chemicals than just benzene and allow for open-path monitoring around the refinery fenceline. Forms of industry compensation for community air quality monitoring are also mentioned in many of the proposed California laws and rules.

While California has long been zealous in its stance on environmental and regulatory compliance when it comes to chemical and petroleum facilities, it may not be a huge stretch to see some of these rules and public reporting requirements transcend State borders. Smart Facilities will look to stay on top of these new regulations but also look for opportunities to reduce risks, costs and improve their corporate responsibility persona vis-à-vis the public.

Uncover Economic Value while enhancing Corporate Responsibility

Staying compliant with environmental and occupational regulations can be a tall order, especially when state and federal laws differ on accepted monitoring technologies i.e. Rule 1180 and EPA 325 A/B. However, some studies have shown that compliance and additional transparency measures taken by facilities (e.g. public reporting, fenceline monitoring, real-time gas sensor integration) can provide unplanned economic and risk mitigation benefits.

A case study by the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) found that reputational risk is minimized as communities and stakeholders are kept apprised of the chemical process safety efforts and initiatives.1 Additional studies have identified a moderate strength relationship between corporate social performance and corporate financial performance, further justifying allocation of resources to chemical process safety.2,3 It is estimated that the Oil and Gas Industry loses an estimated $2 billion due to methane emissions alone.4 By improving air quality monitoring, organizations are able to lower their regulatory risks by meeting air quality criteria in enclosed spaces as well as the facility fenceline.

An additional benefit of addressing issues of mistrust and poor public perception for the chemical industry, the World Economic Forum recommended that organizations implement “transparent reporting” as a way to improve public’s trust and perception.5 By implementing a comprehensive and transparent chemical process safety program, businesses are able to not only demonstrate corporate responsibility but to build a sustained long-term value. A case study by the AIChE found that embracing a comprehensive chemical process safety culture can pay large dividends in increased productivity, reduction of maintenance costs, and lower insurance premiums.1

Effective Air Quality Monitoring

A typical solution to ambient air quality monitoring involves multiple monitors, each with a different proprietary monitoring program. Check out the difference SAFER One can make.

While many facilities are not based in California, it’s not hard to envision future technology and regulatory changes impacting petroleum and chemical facilities densely populating Texas and Louisiana. Nor is it a stretch to see that the not-so near future for chemical facilities nationwide will be integrating real-time monitoring systems that leverage fixed, open-path, and portable sensor technologies. As this transition happens and companies begin implementing more robust gas detection and air quality monitoring solutions, they will be faced with issues of compatibility, technical support, and device management. With thousands of chemicals, hundreds of device manufacturers, and dozens of technologies supporting and scaling the required digital infrastructure becomes a challenge.

Currently it is not uncommon to see half a dozen or more monitors at a chemical plant dedicated to monitoring air quality and weather in and around the facility, requiring that employees are cross trained on the various monitoring platforms provided by the device manufacturers. This approach provides monitoring that is fragmented and requires manual composition of the many sensors to form a single common operating picture. This becomes especially problematic during chemical incidents when sensors’ inputs must be manually transferred into modeling software, but it does not have to be this way!

Simpler. Smarter. Safer.

SAFER Systems has been providing organizations the most accurate common operating picture in and around their facilities by displaying a facility’s gas and weather sensor data on a single intuitive interface for over 30 years. Improving accessibility to critical data during regular or emergency operations allows organizations to better align industrial hygiene, environmental safety, and compliance goals on facility and corporate levels. As a global leader in integrated real-time solutions for monitoring, modeling, and mitigating chemical incidents, SAFER is able to provide confidence and support for ambient air quality monitoring.

Our solutions simplify chemical process safety by providing a single point of contact for all your modeling, engineering, training, and hardware needs. From weather stations to fixed point, open-path, and mobile gas sensors SAFER solutions are able to integrate in real-time with additional integrations of Google Maps®, live traffic, points of interest and internet weather; allowing organizations to scale their ambient air quality monitoring efforts as needed.

Whether you are an established chemical plant looking to simplify and enhance current ambient air quality monitoring or a new organization aiming to start from scratch, SAFER Systems has you covered. Call us at 805.383.9711 or email for more information!


[2] Responsabilité sociale et performance financière des entreprises : une synthèse de la littérature. Allouche, José & Laroche, Patrice. (2005).
[3] Does Environmental Management Improve Financial Performance? A Meta-Analytical Review – Elisabeth Albertini Organization & Environment, vol. 26, 4: pp. 431-457., First Published November 12, 2013.
[5] Trust Challenges Facing Global Oil and Gas Industry, World Economic Forum

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