EPA: Sprague Fined For Emissions

Petroleum Distributor Settles Alleged Violations of Federal and Massachusetts Laws Governing Evapor Emissions from Heated Bunker Fuel and Asphalt Tanks. New Bedford MA Storage Tank to be Shuttered.

29 May, Boston MA – Sprague Resources LP will pay a total of $350,000 in civil penalties, ($205,000 to the U.S. government, and $145,000 to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts). The company will also bring heated oil storage tanks at seven facilities across New England into compliance with federal air pollution control laws regarding volatile organic compounds (VOCs) emissions.

The tanks covered under this settlement are located in Everett, Quincy, and New Bedford, Massachusetts; Searsport and South Portland, Maine; Newington, New Hampshire; and Providence, Rhode Island. They constitute an integral part of the New England energy and road-surfacing networks.


Volatile Organic Compounds are the volatile fumes that evaporate from most distilled petroleum products. Sprague’s alleged violations emanate from heated tanks containing #6 oil and asphalt. Those products are stored at high temperatures to keep them in liquid form. The higher temperatures promote evaporation, and special mechanisms are required to contain the vapors. The vapors contribute to ozone smog formation, and promote numerous physical and ecological problems.

Under the agreement:

  • Sprague’s New Bedford MA facility will stop storing #6 oil and asphalt. This will sharply reduce the quantity of bunkering fuel available locally to the New Bedford fishing fleet.This facility would be allowed to open one tank to store asphalt if it obtains a permit for that activity.
  • Sprague will apply for revised state air pollution control permits for facilities in states where permits are required (MA: Everett and Quincy; NH: Newington; ME: South Portland and Searsport).
  • Sprague will install, operate and maintain carbon bed systems to reduce odors from several tanks in South Portland ME and Quincy MA.

{EPA press release, 29.May.2020}

New Bedford MA

Sprague’s New Bedford storage and distribution facility on the Acushnet River supplies a substantial portion of the local fleet’s #6 bunker fuel, and asphalt. Heavy #6 fuel and asphalt must be heated in the winter months to prevent coagulation. The process inevitably causes some evaporation of volatile compounds.