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• Standard Number: 1910.1028(a)(2)(vi); 1910.1000 TABLE Z-2


January 17, 2002

Ms. Jennifer Schultz
Associate Director
Health and Safety Department
PACE International Union
P. O. Box 1475
Nashville, Tennessee 37202

Dear Ms. Schultz:

Thank you for your July 17, 2001 letter to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the employee exposure data submitted. This letter provides our response to the ongoing correspondence between our organizations which was initiated by your letter of December 15, 2000. Please be aware that this response constitutes OSHA's interpretation only of the requirements discussed and may not be applicable to any question or situation not delineated within your correspondence. You had specific questions regarding the applicability of OSHA's Benzene Standard, 29 CFR 1910.1028, and the Durio Consulting letter of interpretation issued by our office on November 30, 1995. Your situation and question are paraphrased below followed by our response. We apologize for this delay in our reply.

Situation: Crude oil mixture produced from oil wells is routed through enclosed manifold buildings which contain a test separator. This separates the mixture for testing purposes, then recombines the mixture and routes it to the downstream oil and gas processing facility, known as a Gathering Center. At the Gathering Center, the oil is processed through three-phase separators which route the three streams, (oil, gas, and water) for further processing.

The oil is routed through crude oil heaters, downstream separators, dehydrators, crude oil coolers, and shipping pumps. The gas is routed through gas scrubbers and knockout vessels, then back to the crude oil processing system where it is treated and processed. The water is routed through Skim and Surge tanks, centrifugal booster pumps, and water injection pumps.

Question: Based upon this situation and the Durio letter of interpretation, does the exemption afforded under the oil and gas drilling production and servicing operations apply or would this facility have to fully comply with the benzene standard?

Reply: Pursuant to 29 CFR 1910.1028(a)(2)(vi), the operation you described would be exempt from the benzene standard. Regarding the November 30, 1995 letter to Mr. Larry Durio (of Durio Consulting Services), OSHA, at that time, determined that the process of sending crude oil through a heater/separator-treater tank is part of manufacturing or processing and not part of oil production. OSHA has since reconsidered this issue and will rescind the Durio letter.

The operation you described is considered to be part of oil production, and therefore, would be exempt from the benzene standard.

However, please be aware that the facility would have to comply with the requirements and permissible exposure limits (PELs) set forth in 29 CFR 1910.1000 Table Z-2, as this standard applies to industry segments exempt from the benzene standard. Should employee exposures exceed these levels, administrative or engineering controls must be determined and implemented whenever feasible. When controls are not feasible, personal protective equipment or other protective measures must be used to keep the exposure of employees within the prescribed limits.

Please also be aware that some states administer their own occupational safety and health program under provisions of the of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (the Act), with approval and monitoring by Federal OSHA. The Act requires states that administer their own OSH plans to promulgate regulations which are "at least as effective" as the federal regulations, although they may be more stringent. We have attached a list of State Plan States for your reference.

Thank you for your interest in occupational safety and health. We hope this provides the clarification you were seeking and apologize for any confusion the earlier documents may have caused. As this letter demonstrates, OSHA's re-examination of an issue may result in the clarification or correction of previously stated enforcement guidance. OSHA requirements are set by statute, standards and regulations. Our interpretation letters explain these requirements and how they apply to particular circumstances, but they cannot create additional employer obligations. This letter constitutes OSHA's interpretation of the requirements discussed. Note that our enforcement guidance may be affected by changes to OSHA rules. Also, from time to time we update our guidance in response to new information. To keep apprised of such developments, you can consult OSHA's website at
http://www.osha.gov. If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact the [Office of Health Enforcement at (202) 693-2190].

Sincerely,


John Henshaw
Assistant Secretary

[Corrected 6/29/2004]



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