Sunday, July 27, 2014

Flaring of the Majority of Natural Gas Continues on Witt Farm

I need to come back to this part of my comments of the EPA findings posted earlier as this matter might have gone under the findings of leaks.

On page 3, paragraph 4, is stated that in contrary to earlier statements, only propane, which is only 20% of the natural gas produced from 7 or 8 wells is captured and used (Savoy's own gas analysis reported here). The report further states: "Methane and ethane are pulled off the propane tank and used as fuel gas for various pieces of equipment at the facility." Methane and ethane together contribute to 47% of the natural gas harvested in the 7 or 8 wells connected to the central processing facility on Witt Farm. I doubt very much that all of this gas is put to good use - how much machinery needs to be powered day and night? I suspect that either machinery is running just to consume these gas components - constituting a waste of energy and unnecessary carbon dioxide production (global warming!). Alternatively, methane and ethane are still flared off quantitatively. This is the more likely scenario as the hidden flare still shows a lit of flickering and shimmering air showing a lot of heat production at all times.

The more than likely still ongoing flaring of almost half of the natural gas of 7 to 8 attached wells is a massive waste of energy and absolutely unnecessary production of  greenhouse gases increasing Adrian's impact on global warming! I hope we can trust the glycol dehydrator equipped with a condenser to trap VOCs (volatile organic compounds) especially BTEX (benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene), which are especially poisonous and cancerous and had driven my concerns in previous posts about the flaring on Witt Farm leading to a meeting of city and county officials, the DEQ, and concerned citizens on February 21 2014 reported here.
Even with these health threats being gone or reduced, the DEQ should not allow the ongoing waste of perfectly usable natural gas! I will especially inform Kristie Shimko about these concerns.


According to CAUSE 18-2007, a order of the DEQ Supervisor of Wells, the allowable amounts and duration of flaring within the Trenton and Black River formations are specified. These procedures were agreed upon in a discussion between the DEQ and the following oil and gas companies: Continental Resources, Inc.; West Bay Group; Savoy Energy LP; Trendwell Energy Corp.; Matrix Exploration & Development, LLC and Titan Energy, LLC.
“Gas that is not reasonably marketable may be flared. The volume of gas flared is restricted to 100 MCFGPD (100,000 cft gas per day) for a 40-acre drilling unit or 50 MCFGPD for a 20-acre drilling unit, which shall be the net volume of gas flared not including gas used for reasonable and necessary lease fuel purposes. The permittee of a well that is flaring gas shall, within 30 days of a letter of request from the Supervisor, submit to the Supervisor data necessary to determine whether the well can economically market gas. If data is not timely submitted to the Supervisor, the Supervisor may require the permittee to cease the flaring of gas. Based upon the data supplied by the permittee and other information available to the Supervisor, and after meeting with the permittee as necessary, the Supervisor or his authorized representative shall determine whether gas from the well can be economically marketed and shall inform the permittee in writing of that determination. Within 90 days of a determination in the affirmative, or at such later date as the Supervisor may specify, the permittee shall cease the flaring of gas from the well. If the permittee disputes the Supervisor's determination, the permittee may file a petition and request a hearing; but the filing of such petition shall not stay the effectiveness of the determination. If the Supervisor determines that gas from the well cannot be economically marketed*, the permittee shall be allowed to continue flaring gas at the rate specified above. Permission to flare does not grant an exception to any other required permits or approvals.
*Marketing of gas be deemed not economic when an operator provides reasonable evidence to the Supervisor that the cost to connect a well to a pipeline or facility for the transportation and processing of gas will take in excess of two years to pay out based upon the average monthly natural gas production sales.
Get the full PDF-document here.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Results of EPA Findings Not Reported by the Daily Telegram and Toledo Blade

Despite my efforts to share the news-worthy information about leaks on Witt Farm with the two local news outlets Daily Telegram and Adrian Today, which should be of considerable public interest, nothing was reported to the public yet. I guess the City of Adrian's appearance in the light of development projects as the large assisted living complex on Witt Farm and the fear of declining property values are more important than health and environmental concerns. I wonder if this "Looking Away" strategy will continue when the findings will be openly and officially called violations of the Clean Air Act, adding Adrian and Savoy Energy to a short list of illustrious environmental violations.

Edit: Adrian Today reported about this topic on July 25:
I also informed the Toledo Blade about the EPA findings and had a brief email exchange with their reporter Tom Henry but there is still no report about this in the Toledo Blade as well.

Monday, July 21, 2014

ARD Final Response

Today I received the below email from Natalie Topinka from the EPA in response to my email sent on 7/18 published at the bottom of my post:


Glad you received the report and were able to view the IR camera videos just fine.

To clarify, the inspection of Savoy Energy's Adrian 25 facility on 4/28/14 is one part in EPA's Clean Air Act enforcement process in which we gather information to assess a facility's compliance. Typically, after an inspection, the EPA inspector writes a report to document facts and observations gathered during the inspection. Within this report, a compliance determination (that is, a finding as to whether or not the facility is in compliance with or in violation of Clean Air Act requirements) is not made. We may gather more information through written requests to the company (to which the company is required to fully respond), conduct independent research, and review potentially applicable regulations. Then we compare our observations and information to the applicable regulatory requirements and determine if the company is violating any applicable regulatory provision. If so, we will write up the specific violations in a Notice or Finding of Violation and notify the company, then make the notice publicly available at:!OpenView.

For Savoy Energy, the case is presently in the information-gathering stage. Therefore, it would be inaccurate at this point to say "EPA found violations," since no such determination has been made. You'll note that this is contrary to a statement made by one of our FOIA officers in an e-mail to you. Your FOIA request asked for a "report on violations of the clean-air act," and I wanted the officer to clarify to you that because EPA had not yet made a compliance determination, technically there was no such report responsive to your request. However, I knew you were referring to the inspection report and videos so I produced those documents to be sent to you. Unfortunately, the FOIA officer (who is not involved in any way with enforcement investigations but simply helps to organize documents to be released under FOIA) misunderstood me and wrote, "[Even though EPA found violations at the site] a compliance determination has not yet been made, so there is no report on violations of the CAA." The part in brackets (my emphasis) is simply a clerical error. I apologize for the confusion.

At this time, we can't speculate or comment on possible future actions, as all investigations are considered enforcement confidential, but we are keeping up with your blog and are hearing your concerns loud and clear. Please feel free to give me a call any time if you have further questions.




Natalie M. Topinka

Environmental Scientist

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region 5

Air Enforcement and Compliance Assurance Branch

77 West Jackson Boulevard (AE-17J)

Chicago, IL 60604

ph: (312) 886-3853

fax: (312) 692-2410

Protecting the environment is everyone's responsibility. Help EPA fight pollution by reporting possible harmful environmental activity. To do so, visit EPA's website at

Saturday, July 19, 2014

My Comments of the EPA Report on Violations of the Clean Air Act by Savoy Energy on Witt Farm

On page 3, 2nd paragraph the EPA inspectors wrote: "Mr. Rokos [Savoy's Operations Manager] stated that the pilot light is checked two or three times per day to ensure that it remained lit."
I wonder why every home appliance needs to have a failure-proof pilot or a gas shutoff but industrial equipment used in oil processing does not - even if within a residential area.

Also on page 3 right below the above sentence it says: "Vapors from the tanks' headspace are piped to the flare at ambient pressure (no fan or pump is used to draw vapors from the tanks to the flare)."
Seems to me like cutting corners again just to make profit with the least investment / why is no such equipment used and why is this permittable?

Below the above sentence, still on page 3: "Since the system uses a common collection line, vapors from each individual tank can flow to the headspace of any other tank." Again, this sounds like a less than appropriate setup.

Also on page 3, paragraph 4, is stated that in contrary to earlier statements, the natural gas is NOT entirely used but only the propane portion, which is less than 20% by weight, and only 12% by molecular percent (Savoy's own gas analysis reported here). The report further states: "Methane and ethane are pulled off the propane tank and used as fuel gas for various pieces of equipment at
the facility."
Methane and ethane together contribute to 47% of the natural gas harvested in the 7 wells connected to the CPF. I doubt very much that all of this gas is put to good use and suspect that machinery is running to consume these gas components or they are still flared off if they are not gased off elsewhere. The report mentioned nonchalantly, that previous to April 8, 2014, all gas was flared off - which lasted for more than a year and was a scandalous waste and unnecessary air pollution just because Savoy could not make enough money from capturing the gas before the severe winter of 2013/14 raised the prices for natural gas and propane.

Before going to page 4, I want to state some principle shortcomings of all environmental inspections in Michigan and many (if not all) other states.
1.) Inspections have to be announced, giving the inspected companies more than enough time to fix shortcomings they are well aware of, thereby inspections show the best possible operation practices and are not representative to every day operations.
2.) Business owners have to permit access to their site. I suspect that the EPA could have applied for a court order to go in - thus adding additional time for companies to prepare unrealisticly good conditions before inspectors arrive.
3.) Compare 1.) and 2.) to unannounced inspections of small restaurants by the health departments. The difference in procedures make no sense!
4.) Findings during inspections can be held back by the companies declaring them as confidential business informations.
All these restrictions clearly undermine the public interest of immediate, unbiased inspections to prevent threats of human heath due to environmental pollution and threats to the environment and ecosystems.

Page 4, 1st paragraph: Savoy's operation's manager Jack Rokos was in charge to allow the EPA inspectors to use equipment solely used to detect leaks. I think the EPA should have the right to use this equipment even without permission!

Page 4, paragraph 2 states "a few small leaks at the compressor" shown in videos and photos. In paragraph 3, leaks in two of the four oil tanks were found. Again, remember that they are all connected - meaning that already one leak is sufficient to vent all 4 oil tanks into the "clean 100% pure Michigan air".

Page 4, paragraph 4 states leaks on 3 out of 4 water tanks, with massive venting of fumes that made the inspectors move out of the area.

To really value the significance of these leaks, I want to remind my readers that what you smell as bad odor is only a warning that with theses smelly fumes, odorless poisonous and cancerous volatile hydrocarbons are vented off into Michigan's Clean Air - and thus threaten the health of at least the closest neighbors. Refer to the legend of photo 1 on page 5: "Note the proximity of the house and public highway to the facility".

In paragraph 5 on page 4, the EPA inspectors state: "All leaking components at the compressor and
from the thief hatches and pressure relief device were pointed out to Savoy representatives."

The question now is: Did they do anything about it - or do they just continue to leak poisonous and cancerous compounds?

In the last paragraph of page 4 - under Closing Conference, the EPA inspector writes: "I expressed concern that the pressure relief valves and thief hatches were not properly weighted to ensure that
vapors are first directed to the flare, then to the Enardo pressure relief valves in the case of an overpressurization event, and then to the thief hatches, in that order."

Mr. Rokos of Savoy Energy stated that "he would have the thief hatch seals inspected and add additional weight to the hatches to ensure that they were not venting at pressures lower than necessary."
This does only seem to address some of the inspector's concerns - and what is meant by "not venting at pressures lower than necessary"? It seems to me that the system should direct any elevated pressure - and the causing gas and volatiles towards the flare and NOT vent them into the air. I hear some of the industry's typical arrogance - thinking that they can do whatever they want to do...

Even if Savoy does what Mr. Rokos indicated, how is this monitored or followed up with when the presented document is still a "internal report" and no official reporting was issued and passed on to Savoy Energy. For God's sake, this is 3 months after the inspection that objectively found VIOLATIONS. I wished I would have that much time to pay for a parking ticket or other MINOR issues compared to air pollution...

Even worse, when the EPA finally comes up with a fool-proof report (to avoid being sued by the wealthy oil and gas lobby given that the EPA is an almost bankrupt government institution) - the report will first go to Savoy before any fines or penalties are set. This sounds like Savoy is good to go and continue to improve Michigan's Clean Air for a long time to come. Maybe the City of Adrian should put a PURE MICHIGAN sign next to Savoy's Central Oil Processing Facility on Witt-Farm.

Infra-Red Videos Taken by the EPA Show Several Leaks on Witt Farm

In my last post I published the EPA's preliminary report about violations of the Clean Air Act by Savoy Energy on Witt Farm in Adrian. On the last page of the report is a table detailing some videos taken on sit showing several leaks in the equipment. I published all these videos on YouTube.

IR Video Log
Video ID number    Description
MOV 0442.mp4    Leaking Enardo valve above NW oil tank YouTube
MOV 0443.mp4    Leaking Enardo valve above NW oil tank YouTube
MOV 0444.mp4    Leaking thief hatch on oil tank YouTube
MOV 0445.mp4    Leaking thief hatch on oil tank, obscured YouTube
MOV 0446.mp4    Latter part of video show s leak on SE oil tank thief hatch YouTube
MOV 0447.mp4    Leaking thief hatch on SE water tank YouTube
MOV 0448.mp4    Leaking thief hatch on SE water tank YouTube
MOV 0449.mp4    Leaking thief hatch on SE water tank, viewed from ground level YouTube
MOV 0450.mp4    Leaking thief hatch on water tank YouTube
MOV 0451.mp4    Leaking thief hatch on water tank YouTube
MOV 0452.mp4    Flare YouTube
MOV 0453.mp4    Leaking thief hatch on water tank poor video quality YouTube
MOV 0454.mp4    Deleted - recorded in error - no image
MOV 0455.mp4    Leaking compressor component YouTube
MOV 0456.mp4    Leaking compressor component YouTube
MOV 0457.mp4    Leaking compressor component YouTube
MOV 0458.mp4    Leaking compressor component YouTube
MOV 0459.mp4    Leaking compressor component YouTube

I wrote to the EPA inspectors the following email:

I received the print version of the report and the CD. Thanks a lot!
Just to verify, the violations were found 4/28 but until today 7/18 no actions were taken and most probably the same kind of leaks are still going on. In addition, it is not certain that Savoy will ever receive a citation or fine for this and might not have to stop venting these fumes shown in the IR videos.

Thanks in advance for clarification!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Preliminary Report of the EPA about Violations of the Clean Air Act on Witt Farm

I received the following today:

07/10/2014 11:00 AM
FOIA Request: EPA-R5-2014-007747
Mr. Wassmer:
Attached is the final response letter from the Air and Radiation Division. Your responsive document will be sent via postal mail which you will receive in the next few days. Even though EPA found violations at the site a compliance determination has not yet been made, so there is no report on violations of the CAA. We are sending the inspection report along with some videos since this is all we have. If you have any questions please feel free to contact our office.
 Here is the link to the documents:
I attach the PDF below:
I do not have access to the IR videos showing the leaks yet but will share them on Youtube ASAP.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

EPA Found that Savoy Violated the Clean Air Act on Witt Farm

On April 27, Victoria Powell told me that the EPA will conduct a site visit on Witt Farm. Unfortunately, I did not hear anything else about it and there was no report about this in the local news. I therefore decided to write an email to the EPA on 5/12/2014:

"To whom it may concern,

It came to my knowledge that the EPA was called upon and visited what the Michigan DEQ calls Adrian 25, a central oil processing facility within city limits that flared off the natural gas of up to 7 oil wells for more than a year, mostly burning unclean. I reported about this on my blog, e.g. I did not see any official confirmation of this site visit that supposable happened on 4/29/2014 and nobody contacted me about any details that could be added to a ongoing investigation.
My questions are now: was there a site visit and what if anything will happen? If you need a chronology of the violation, please consult with my blog or respond to this email.

Thanks in advance, Tom"

About two weeks later I received a voice mail from one of the EPA officers that were on site. I returned the call a few days later and was told that the EPA found violations of the Clean Air Act on site and that it was caused by leaks in the system - not as I expected from the flare. The officer did not want to provide me with more details but suggested that I file a Freedom of Information Act
(FOIA) request around June 15, when the final report should have been filed. This sounded reasonable and on June 24th I filed my request
EPA-R5-2014-007747 asking for expedited processing due to potential health risks and my plans to inform the public. I was shocked that my request for expedited handling was refused 6/27. I was hoping that the report would still come in reasonable time but I am getting tired of waiting and therefore wrote the below email to the EPA today:

Subject: FOIA Request: EPA-R5-2014-007747 / RE: Fee Waiver and Expedited Processing Determination

"To whom it may concern,

I am very disappointed with the decision of the case officer. I clearly stated in my application that I intend to disseminate the information to the general public via my local blog that is subscribed by many Adrian citizens and any other channel that I have - including my media contacts. I also clearly stated that the report should be made available IMMEDIATELY (that means expedited!) as the EPA investigation found serious violations of the clear air act on the site and it is my understanding of democracy and environmental justice that people living close to the facility should know about existing health threats NOW and not half a year later!
As this is not the first and only clear misjudgement by environmental authorities that should safeguard our citizens and the environment I am slowly seeing how people can think that the Michigan DEQ and the EPA are biased or severely undermined by polluting industries.
I EXPECT to receive the report without further delay and without fees the latest by this Monday! I will disseminate this letter on my blog - and I will as well cite the officer from the EPA, who gave me the information on the findings of violations on site. I promised the officer to hold back until I receive the final report but due to your agency's policy of delaying information that the public has a right to know - I will now post what I was told more than a month ago!"

I am seriously hoping to get this report soon and I will disseminate it here and send copies to the media.