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Tesoro Refinery Case Study

Located in North Salt Lake City, UT, Tesoro is the only refinery in Utah that relies on an infrared (IR) camera to help identify gas leaks that are invisible to the human eye. Identifying and repairing gas leaks provides Tesoro with a competitive advantage by capturing product that would be lost, reducing emissions, and improving safety conditions for their employees and the neighboring community. “Using an IR camera for detecting gas leaks, followed by leak repairs, has been invaluable in helping us meet our safety and environmental goals, ” said Karma Thomson, vice president of Tesoro’s Salt Lake City Refinery and member of Utah Air Quality Board.

The Tesoro Salt Lake Refinery employs approximately 230 people and processes crude oil from Utah, Colorado and Wyoming. Tesoro manufactures gasoline, diesel fuel, jet fuel, heavy fuel oils, and liquefied petroleum gas for distribution to markets in Utah, Idaho and eastern Washington, with some product delivered to Nevada and Wyoming.

Environmental and Safety Benefits

IR cameras have a high sensitivity to the infrared radiation wavelength that is invisible to the human eye. Gas leaks show up as white or black clouds, depending on the camera setting. These leaks emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that contribute to winter PM2.5 and summer ozone air pollution.

Alex Mongold, Tesoro’s Intermediate Environmental Administrator, has been operating Tesoro’s IR camera for over a year. Mongold relies on the IR camera on a regular basis to help pinpoint the location of leaks that are difficult-to-reach or locate and during shut-down or start-up periods. Refinery operators contact Mongold when they need assistance determining the source of hydrocarbon odors in areas where they are working. The camera can scan a wide area from a safe distance, reducing the risk to operators who would otherwise have to enter potentially hazardous areas to check for leaks with hand-held devices, such as vapor analyzers.

Mongold also relies on the IR camera as a tool to meet the requirements of their Leak Detection and Repair (LDAR) program. Refineries are required to control emissions from equipment leaks by implementing a LDAR program. Mongold uses the IR camera in addition to vapor analyzers and audio, visual, and olfactory (AVO) inspections to identify leaking equipment so that emissions can be reduced through repairs or replacing the valve with “leak-less technology” valves and components.

Lastly, the camera is regularly used from various vantage points throughout the refinery to scan for potential leaks that could be emitting from a malfunctioning storage tank seal. Together these steps assure Tesoro is being proactive in their efforts to maintain safe operating conditions for their employees and the surrounding communities and reduce possible air pollution from VOC leaks.

Next Steps

Future efforts include determining the frequency of IR camera usage and incorporating records of leaks detected with the IR camera into the LDAR database.