Mansfield, Texas air is not safe for breathing.
The City of Mansfield is pocked with a couple hundred shale gas wells and the equipment required to support those wells. The landman never tells people about all the required equipment. This equipment will spew cancer causing hydrocarbon gases into the air on an ongoing basis.
Compressors and compressor stations are part of the equipment that comes with a shale boom. If you have oil and gas wells in your neighborhoods, compressors are not far behind. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) issues a rubber stamp air permit for compressors and compressor stations. The permitting process amounts to this: Calculations are made by an engineer with the intent to keep numbers below requirements for the permit. No actual measurements of the toxic hydrocarbon gases are made.
No matter what happens, the TCEQ will rarely find that the compressor station operator exceeded their permit. So don’t expect violations from the state. We know this because of what happened in Argyle:
- A blowdown is an allowed emission event. The facility purges or empties the system of all the contents including methane, VOC’s and chemicals.
- At one Argyle facility, the state issued permit estimated 144 blowdowns a year. In 2011, there were 501 blowdowns, or about 1.4 on average each day. This facility exceeded their permit on February 3, 2011! The state took no action but the EPA issued a violation of the clean air act.
- Families frequently had to wake their children at night to evacuate.
- TCEQ measured very high levels of volatile organic compounds on their front porches.
- The residence closest to this Facility was valued at $361,000 on the 2009 tax rolls and was valued at $95,000 on the 2010 tax rolls.
On January 29, 2015, I got FLIR video of an emergency compressor station blowdown in Mansfield. The permit was issued to Texas Energy Midstream LP. The compressor station has since changed hands. It is now operated by Summit Midstream Partners. The toxic hydrocarbon gases released into Mansfield air during this event, were not part of the certified emissions listed on the permit.
Wilma Subra, MacArthur “Genius” Award winning chemist analyzed the permit at my request. Here’s what it means.
The engines each will be blown down once per week for maintenance. This is excessive blowdowns. In addition, the company did not consider blowdown events when problem conditions arise. Thus the emissions from blowdown events are underestimated.
The facility has a glycol dehydration unit. These units release a very large quantity of benzene, which is very toxic.
The facility has a slop tank and a 100 barrel tank to hold process water and condensate. The emissions from these tanks can be extreme.
The emissions from these units seem to be underestimated.
The air emissions from the truck loading facility are the highest VOC emissions. This corresponds to data from other compressor stations with truck loading facilities.
The vent has a silencer to reduce noise due to the fact that the compressor station is located in the city limits. However, it does not have adequate emission controls. The emission controls allow 5% of the emissions to be released to the air. This is not adequate. Especially since the emissions contain benzene and formaldehyde, which are known human cancer causing agents.
Exposure to toxic hydrocarbon gases is certain.
If you live in Mansfield, your exposure to toxic hydrocarbon gases is certain. The releases from the compressor station and any lift compressors are ongoing, not just during blowdown events. Combustion of natural gas creates formaldehyde. Industry’s own testing found Barnett Shale formaldehyde levels at more thn twice the Houston Ship Channel levels. All tanks come with vents that allow the toxic hydrocarbon gases to escape into the atmosphere.
Hold your breath Mansfield!
About Sharon Wilson
Sharon Wilson is considered a leading citizen expert on the impacts of shale oil and gas extraction. She is the go-to person whether it’s top EPA officials from D.C., national and international news networks, or residents facing the shock of eminent domain and the devastating environmental effects of natural gas development in their backyards.
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Excellent post. Know this situation well, same situation in Booger County. And of course the TCEQ does nothing. The TCEQ does not even require that the name of a facility reflect what is at the facility–there are many “Compressor stations” with no compressors on site. Also, these compressors are permitted based on info supplied by the owner where the emissions are computed based on burning idealized clean fuel–but, they nearly always burn the raw sour gas at the site which results in much higher levels of toxic emissions. That good TCEQ, WAJ.