Refinery Sector Rule


Note: please see our blog post detailing the RSR Rule amendments published/effective on July 13, 2016

EPA’s Refinery Sector Rule (RSR), finalized in December 2015 and effective as of February 1, 2016, contains a wide variety of compliance obligations with a challenging schedule for required compliance actions.  This is further complicated by a last-minute proposed rule that would amend the schedule if finalized, as well as requests for extensions that are pending in various state regulatory agencies.

So what should your refinery be doing now?

We’ve followed what AFPM and others have suggested and we see the most pressing needs to be:

  • Paying close attention to the finalization of the proposed rule via API or AFPM
  • Communicating with your regulatory agency about the status of any extension requests you may have submitted
  • Focusing on currently applicable requirements (including General Duty Clause obligations) – see below
  • Taking an appropriate approach to fenceline monitoring before data becomes reportable
  • Reviewing the needs for any anticipated capital expenses and budgeting and engineering on a fast track

JBE sees the need to understand currently applicable requirements as particularly important and perhaps misunderstood.  General duty clause obligations were effective with the compliance date of the rule (February 1, 2016), and were not proposed to be extended by the proposed rule which is still pending.  Some (but not all) refineries may have requested extensions for this via state agency submittals.

Given this backdrop, the following actions seem particularly important:

  • Make sure your storage tank Group 1 assignments are accurate based on the revisions to CC (this is a great time for an audit – many facilities have not really visited applicability since MACT I was effective back in 1998)
  • Develop a register of maintenance vents, pressure relief devices and atmospheric process vents (perhaps simultaneously) so that general duty clause obligations for a recordkeeping log until full applicability takes effect can be met.  This register seeks to identify those devices that cannot be excluded as a result of an applicability process (part of the list development and documentation effort).  [You can’t keep records on meeting manufacturer’s recommendations for operation and maintenance unless you know precisely which equipment is affected]

JBE can help by performing a tabular tank applicability review and developing (and executing) a vent identification and applicability process.  Our process includes a workflow that focuses on categorizing and identifying vents in a simplified step-by-step manner.

Process Vents

Equipment vent compliance under the Refinery Sector Rule’s 40 CFR 63 Subpart CC (Subpart CC) is a challenge, as the requirements are significantly different depending on the type of vent being considered, and the applicability triggers and exemptions are scattered throughout the regulation.  Complicating the issue is availability of facility information – many refineries will not have a consolidated list of vents that is readily available for review to begin the applicability process.  

Where to begin: We suggest staff interviews and reviewing lists of process vessels, PFDs, and other lists/information to first identify your universe of vents.  Then, use the exemptions potentially applicable to all vents to weed out those you can, and categorize the remaining ones into the general groups Subpart CC recognizes: pressure relief devices, miscellaneous process vents, and maintenance vents (a subset of miscellaneous process vents).

Then follow a step-by-step process: Group the vents further into the different “buckets” as shown in the diagram below.  Again, as Subpart CC requirements significantly vary depending on the type of vent, these groupings are very important.  In our experience, there are many ways to simplify this grouping process.  An example is performing applicability for multiple groupings at once that have the same available exemptions.

The goals are to identify and categorize vents in the simplest way possible as described above, and then use this information to determine which requirements apply in a systematic way – all while minimizing the impact of the rule.  Subpart CC is difficult to navigate, includes many possible exemptions in multiple sections, and has widely varying requirements.  

JBE can help.  We have developed an applicability process that streamlines this complicated regulation, and can assist in making difficult applicability decisions along the way to obtain the desired result: to group as many vents as possible into the red buckets (exempt vents) and blue buckets (fewer applicable requirements), and the fewest vents possible in the green buckets (more stringent requirements).  


RSR Vent Diagram for Website_V2