Phillips 66 updates information on catalyst release; FCC unit remains down
Ponca City Now - July 18, 2019 2:37 pm
Phillips 66 spokeswoman Diane Anderson released the following information Thursday afternoon on the release of catalyst on Tuesday afternoon:
At approximately 1 p.m. local time Tues., July 16, 2019, the Phillips 66 Ponca City Refinery’s Fluid Catalytic Cracking (FCC) unit experienced an upset, resulting in a brief release of FCC catalyst into the air for approximately 20 minutes. All appropriate regulatory notifications were made following the incident.
FCC catalyst, which helps convert crude oil to finished products like gasoline in the refining process, is a gray, powdery material whose primary component is like pottery clay. It also contains small amounts of metals and metal oxides that are normally also found in outdoor soil and dust.
Studies on short-term exposure to FCC catalyst show that it is unlikely to cause health effects beyond slight eye and respiratory tract irritation. It is not anticipated that a single short-term exposure to FCC catalyst dust in the air would increase the risk of long-term health effects.
The potential for health impacts related to Tuesday’s release were minimized further by the brief duration of the release, as studies of short-term exposures are typically based on exposures of hours or days.
We regret that this incident caused immediate concern and inconvenience in our community. Seven individuals, including six youth, at a nearby park did seek medical attention at a local emergency room and were released shortly thereafter.
Phillips 66 would like to thank our emergency personnel for their quick response and reassure our community that we are fully investigating the cause of the upset in an effort to prevent a similar occurrence in the future.
The FCC unit currently remains down; however, the refinery continues to operate.
The refinery’s community hotline number is (580) 767-7130.
In addition to the above release, Anderson included this fact sheet from the Center for Toxicology and Environmental Health, L.L.C, written in September 2018:
What is FCC catalyst?
Many refineries use a process called Fluidized Catalytic Cracking (FCC) that utilizes a FCC catalyst to
convert heavy petroleum products, such as oil, into lighter petroleum products, such as gasoline. FCC
catalysts’ appearance is generally powdered and is primarily comprised of amorphous silica and clay-like
materials and small amounts of metals or metal oxides.
How may I be exposed to FCC catalyst?
The FCC catalyst is intended to be contained in the FCC Unit, however, a process upset or malfunction of
this unit could release FCC catalyst into the air. An individual’s exposure to FCC catalyst following a release
will depend on the individual’s proximity to a release site and on how much time has passed since the
release. Persons directly exposed to airborne FCC catalyst may inhale these particles. After time, the
released FCC catalyst will deposit on outdoor surfaces downwind of a release site. Exposure may also
occur via ingestion when a person puts their hands on a surface with FCC catalyst residue on it and brings
their hand to their mouth (hand-to-mouth contact) while eating, smoking, etc.
What happens to FCC catalyst following a release in the environment?
Local weather conditions will largely influence the dispersion of FCC catalyst following an accidental
release into the environment. Wind speed and direction will affect the movement of lofted FCC catalyst
particles, diluting and spreading them downwind from a release site until they eventually reach the
ground and settle on outdoor surfaces. The evaluation of surface soil and water may be necessary through
the collection of environmental samples with a comparison to appropriate health-based screening levels
to determine the extent of potential impact, if any.
What are the potential health effects of FCC catalyst?
Exposure to airborne FCC catalyst particles immediately following a release may cause reversible shortterm
coughing and wheezing in sensitive individuals. However, it is unlikely that a single short-term
exposure to FCC catalyst in air would be associated with an increased risk of long-term health effects. In
recent FCC release incidents, health authorities noted minor potential health effects, such as short-term,
reversible coughing or wheezing by those exposed to FCC particulate. Similarly, accident investigators
have not reported any potential long-term health effects of concern.
How can I protect myself from the adverse health effects of FCC catalyst
In the event of an accidental release of FCC catalyst, remove yourself from an environment containing
the catalyst to limit inhalation and dermal exposure. You may be advised to “shelter in place” to limit your
exposure. “Shelter in place” means to go indoors, close all doors and windows, turn off fans, air
conditioners, and forced-air heating units that bring fresh air from the outside (only air inside the
building/residence should be recirculated). Keep a radio turned to the emergency response network or
local news stations to get updated information. Remain indoors until advised that the event is over. After
the air has cleared, limit direct contact with visibly-impacted surfaces.
Are there exposure standards or guidelines for FCC catalyst designed to
protect my health?
While no exposure standards have been established or guidelines published specifically for FCC catalyst,
exposure guidelines for individual compounds that may be present have been derived by various health
authorities. Testing can be performed to determine the levels of these individual compounds in air and
on surfaces. In recent FCC release incidents, testing in the surrounding community generally showed post-incident
levels were consistent with background levels, and no long-term impacts to human health or the
environment were observed.