Dedicated to environmental stewardship

What’s coming out of that stack?

It’s mainly water vapor.

There are a couple of different sources of the white "clouds" that appear over refineries and petrochemical facilities

One source is the cooling towers. During the refining process, we heat fluids, sometimes to more than 140 degrees. Then we need to cool them down again. A cooling tower uses the process of heat exchange to relocate heat from one liquid to another. In this case, water. 

The other source is the wet gas scrubber

The wet gas scrubber is a pollution control device that ensures that byproducts from the processing of crude oil do not escape into the atmosphere. Exhaust from the refining process enters a vessel that blows the gas up through several stages of sprays, capturing the contaminants in water droplets. The gas is propelled upwards by a fan, through a column of packing materials, which stops the droplets dead in their tracks. 

Both processes produce steam

The "smoke" that you see above the facility is really steam. Both of these processes cause evaporation. When the vapors mix with the airstream, steam clouds form at the top of the stacks. 

Did you know?

Water is essential in the cooling towers and boilers needed to produce fuel and petrochemicals. Partnerships with leading academic research institutes have yielded innovations that are reshaping how our industries use this vital resource, introducing new technologies that allow facilities to more efficiently separate oil and water to recycle and reduce wastewater. Through the ingenuity of our members, as much as 70 percent of the water used in the refining processes and landscaping at certain facilities is now recycled or reclaimed.1