Exxon Mobil released pollutants from Baytown, Texas refinery

Exxon Mobil has released pollutants into the air from a refinery that was caught in tropical storm Harvey. The oil giant told regulators that a floating roof of a tank at its refinery in Baytown, Texas, partially sank in during the heavy rainfall and released emissions.

Earlier, emissions were released during the planned shutdown of the refinery ahead of the arrival of Harvey, which was then a hurricane but later downgraded to a tropical storm.

The company did try to identify the chemicals that were released in initial findings this week, with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.

According to David Gray, a spokesman for the Environmental Protection Agency, the company reported releasing 15 pounds of benzene due to damage from the storm. Benzene has been classified as a carcinogen by the EPA.

''This is an unprecedented storm, and we have taken every effort to minimize emissions and safely shut down equipment,'' said Exxon spokeswoman Charlotte Huffaker, Associated Press reported. She added, the Irving, Texas-based company was monitoring emission levels and was committed to complying with environmental laws.

The flooding has resulted in the shutdown of about 15 per cent of the nation's refining capacity, sending gasoline prices higher.

Meanwhile, the US' largest refinery in Port Arthur, Texas, yesterday said it has reduced its production rate to 40 per cent capacity, as refineries up and down the Texas coast battled the effects of Tropical Storm Harvey, which first hit the state Friday as a hurricane.

The Saudi Aramco owned, Motiva Enterprises' refinery, boasts a production capacity of around 603,000 barrels a day, so that would mean about 350,000 barrels a day have been taken offline. With the move, the total amount of refining capacity offline now stands at 2.4 million barrels a day, well over 15 per cent of total US refining capacity.