Artesia’s Navajo Refinery one of the most air-polluting oil and gas sites

An oil refinery in Artesia was listed as one of the nation’s top emitters of air-polluting benzene, a carcinogen known to cause cancer with long term exposure.

HollyFrontier’s Navajo Refinery, situated in the small town in southeast New Mexico’s Permian Basin oilfield and the town’s biggest employer, was reported to have benzene emission levels higher than government limits, per a recent study from the Environmental Integrity Project.

It was one of 13 refineries in the report found to have levels of the chemical, a byproduct of crude oil production, above the Environmental Protection Agencies “action level.”

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The study was conducted for 12 months in 2020, ending on Dec. 31 of last year, and was released in April.

The Navajo Refinery located in Artesia process 100,000 barrels of crude oil per day from around the Permian Basin.

It ranked the Navajo Refinery as having the ninth-highest net benzene concentration at 11.3 micrograms per cubic meter (μg/m3) of emissions.

That level was down 55 percent from 2019, the study showed, but still 25 percent above the EPA action level of 9 μg/m3.

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In a statement, HollyFrontier defended its efforts to mitigate emissions, pointing to reductions in benzene releases after it upgraded multiple sections of the Navajo Refinery and increased monitoring.