Sulfuric Acid Leak @ Shell Cracker Caused Local Odors?

by admin on April 7, 2022

Liquid chemical storage tanks are surrounded by a containment for leaks

Faulty equipment blamed for strong ACID spill; company says all chemicals NOW contained

From an Article by Reid Frazier, StateImpact PA, March 24, 2022

A faulty piece of equipment on a storage tank caused a 2,000-gallon chemical spill at Shell’s Beaver County ethane cracker over the weekend, the company said.

The spill was discovered on Saturday morning at 9:30 AM during a routine inspection, and all chemicals spilled were contained on site. Shell said in a statement the tank was part of the facility’s waste water treatment plant, and contained a mixture of water and sulfuric acid. The company said the chemicals were captured within a built-in secondary containment area.

The company said the spill appears to have been caused by a faulty flange – a collared mechanical fitting often used to join two pieces of equipment together. “Maintaining environmental compliance and timely reporting of potential incidents are top priorities for Shell,” spokesman Curtis Thomas said in a statement. “We will continue to keep the environmental authorities apprised as we continue our investigation of this matter.”

According to the CDC, sulfuric acid is a corrosive substance that can cause damage to skin, eyes, teeth and lungs, and can harm workers if exposure is high enough. The company said no workers were harmed.

The company uses sulfuric acid as an additive to control pH in the plant’s waste water, Thomas said.

The incident was reported to the National Response Center, local emergency officials and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. PA-DEP air quality monitors in nearby Brighton Township did not record any exceedances of pollutant levels, including sulfur dioxide, said agency spokesman Jamar Thrasher.

But Jamie Quigley, who lives nearby, said she detected a sulfurous “rotten egg” smell as early as Friday afternoon from her work in nearby Beaver, and continued to smell it throughout the weekend from her home in Brighton Township, which is not far from the plant. “Friday, when I walked out of work, it smelled like rotten eggs,” Quigley said. “And it lasted like that all weekend. It was gross.”

Construction at the plant – built with $1.6 billion dollars in state tax credits – is nearing completion. It’s scheduled to come online later this year.

>> About StateImpact Pennsylvania ~ StateImpact Pennsylvania is a collaboration among WITF, WHYY, and the Allegheny Front. Reporters Reid Frazier, Rachel McDevitt and Susan Phillips cover the commonwealth’s energy economy. Read their reports on this site, and hear them on public radio stations across Pennsylvania. This collaborative project is funded, in part, through grants from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Heinz Endowment, Wyncote Foundation, and William Penn Foundation.



No matter how well a plant is designed and operated, there is the potential for accidents to happen. Accidents can be as minor as small spills or releases to major incidents that require evacuation, personal injury or death.

Plans must be in place for all possible situations and personnel should be trained so they now how to react to minimize the impact of an accident. This database lists accidents, both minor and major that have involved sulphuric acid plants or sulphuric acid.

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