Two hundred pounds of hydrogen cyanide have been leaking from the Delaware City, DE, refinery each day since Oct. 2 because of equipment failure, according to reports filed with the National Response Center.
This means about 3,600 pounds of the deadly chemical released, said Teri Biebel, of SkyTruth, a non-profit organization that monitors energy, environmental industries, mining and gas production.
Biebel said her organization has been tracking reports from the National Response Center every day since the beginning of this month.
“Hydrogen cyanide is flammable and can explode,” said Paul Woods of SkyTruth. “It is lethal in high concentrations and is a registered chemical weapon in facilities that produced significant quantities.”
Over the past 10 years, only 48 reports of more than 100 pounds of hydrogen cyanide emissions filed with the National Response Center, Woods said. Twenty of these came from Delaware City.
“This tells us this is not a routine occurrence,” he said. “We’re not sure if it’s dangerous.”
A caller to the National Response Center, who they have not identified, said the cyanide is coming from a cat cracker unit due to an outage in the “CO” boiler and the refinery has adjusted operations and is working to repair it.
The release rate of the chemical is 200 pounds each day the boiler is broken, the report said.
On Oct. 2, the first report submitted to the National Response Center said the “CO Boiler on the FCC united blew a hole in the line causing a release of carbon sulfide and hydrogen cyanide into the air,” emitting only a trace amount of the chemicals.
The Delaware City refinery reopened Oct. 7 after a two-year shut down.
The National Response Center reported no damage or injuries and the environmental impact remains unknown.
Woods said he is unsure of the threat, but it’s unusual to have reports of this amount of the chemical leaking.
The refinery is a high conversion heavy crude oil refinery, with capabilities of processing 190,000 barrels per day. It is located on 5,000 acres of land near the Delaware River.