Imperial Oil Limited has pleaded guilty to one offence and was fined $650,000 for discharging a contaminant, coker stabilizer thermocracked gas, into the natural environment that caused an adverse effect, contrary to the Environmental Protection Act (EPA).
Imperial Oil Limited operates a refinery and chemical plant located in the City of Sarnia and on February 7, 2014, a frozen flare line at the plant ruptured in two locations and discharged coker stabilizer thermocracked gas into the natural environment.
Coker stabilizer thermocracked gas is comprised of a complex combination of hydrocarbons and contains hydrogen sulphide gas. According to the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health & Safety, hydrogen sulphide gas is “very toxic” and inhalation can cause death.
The discharge was detected by by the company at 3:23 p.m. on February 7, 2014 and site sirens were immediately activated.
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The company isolated the source of the primary leak within eight minutes and the other leak within about 3 ½ hours. The foul odour from the gas affected some people in central and north-end Sarnia. Some experienced burning eyes, sore throats, headaches, light-headedness, nausea and dizziness. Some residents were also forced to remain in their homes.
A “Code Grey” that lasted for 45 minutes was also triggered at Blue Water Hospital indicating a release of a toxic substance in the community that could cause a detrimental effect on the operation of the hospital. It required the institution prevent external air from entering the facility.
The matter was referred to the Ministry’s Investigations and Enforcement Branch and following an investigation charges were laid.
On September 19, 2016, Imperial Oil Limited was convicted of one offence, was fined $650,000 plus a victim fine surcharge of $162,500 and was given six months to pay the fine.