EPA’s proposed ethylene oxide rules may impact South Louisiana chemical plants


Louisiana chemical manufacturers would be forced to trim their annual emissions of ethylene oxide under an Environmental Protection Agency proposal.

The proposed new rules targeting the carcinogenic gas could impact plants in south Louisiana that emit reportable amounts of ethylene oxide, including Union Carbide in St. Charles Parish; Evonik Materials in St. John the Baptist Parish; Shell Chemical, BASF, Rubicon and Axiall in Ascension Parish; BCPO Ingredients, Taminco, Tylose, Axiall, Dow Chemical and Ineos Oxide in Iberville; and Sasol and Westlake Chemical in Calcasieu Parish.

The EPA is under a federal court order to finalize the regulation by March 13, 2020.

Ethylene oxide is used in the manufacturing of a number of other chemicals that make such products as adhesives, detergent, plastics and antifreeze.

The EPA says ethylene oxide emissions from chemical manufacturing plants would fall by about 9 metric tons per year under the proposed regulation. The agency wants to require facilities to control emissions of the gas from storage tanks, vents, and leaky equipment.

Chemical plants collectively reported emitting about 100 tons of ethylene oxide in 2018, according to the EPA Toxics Release Inventory—42 tons of which were fugitive emissions that leak from vents, pumps, and valves, the inventory data show.

The proposed rule, which the EPA unveiled Nov. 6, is aimed at trimming about 105 tons of hazardous air pollutants—including toluene and methanol in addition to ethylene oxide—from manufacturers of miscellaneous organic chemicals.

Read the EPA announcement.