?A Change in the Air for Billings

Reductions in sulfur dioxide (SO2) emissions at the Billings Refinery in Montana have helped the city of Billings and Yellowstone County achieve a huge improvement in environmental status.

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock announced that the Environmental Protection Agency will designate a part of Yellowstone County as being in a state of attainment for sulfur dioxide, thanks in part to the reductions in SO2 by the Billings Refinery.

The EPA website defines attainment as "any area that meets the national primary or secondary ambient air quality standard for the pollutant."

Billings Refinery employees point to a number of improvements that helped to reduce SO2 emissions, including:

The nearby Jupiter Sulfur plant that takes excess sulfur from the refinery and converts it to other products, like fertilizer.

A flare gas recovery unit that removes sulfur from the flare system and redirects the sweetened gas for use as fuel inside the refinery. This recovery system has helped to reduce flaring frequency and the concentration of sulfur emitted to the atmosphere.

"Flare gas recovery was a big milestone when we added that in 2003," said Mark Cohn, the refinery's environmental director. "It immediately reduced our emissions."

A gas oil hydrotreater, which removes sulfur from fuels and refinery products.

Production of ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel.

"The refinery improvements and the attainment status allow us to continue operating efficiently, receive permits for projects and improve the air quality in the area," said Ray Rigdon, manager of the Billings Refinery.

Gov. Bullock said Billings is the first community to go from nonattainment status to attainment for reducing SO2 emissions.

"It's validation that the emissions controls in place meet environmental standards," Cohn said.

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