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US investigators blame Chevron over Richmond refinery fire

04.16.2013  |  HP News Services

The investigators found Chevron didn't apply safer design principles at the California refinery and also didn't fix a corroded pipe that ruptured and caused a fire and vapor cloud. The August fire at the 245,000 bpd refinery near San Francisco burned for hours, sending thick, black smoke over the San Francisco Bay.

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By CASSANDRA SWEET

Chevron didn't apply safer design principles at its oil refinery in Richmond, Calif., and the company didn't fix a corroded pipe that ruptured last year and caused a fire and a vapor cloud, investigators at the US Chemical Safety Board concluded in a draft report.

The August fire at the 245,000 bpd refinery near San Francisco burned for hours, sending a column of thick, black smoke over the San Francisco Bay and causing an estimated 15,000 area residents with eye and respiratory problems to visit emergency rooms. Six Chevron employees suffered minor injuries.

The board, an independent entity that investigates industrial accidents, said Monday Chevron metallurgists and inspectors warned the company in a 2009 internal report, and again in a 2010 newsletter, that corrosion could cause a major pipeline rupture or "catastrophic failure," but that the company didn't take action to correct the problem.

Chevron said it was reviewing the Chemical Safety Board's report and was "working closely with the agency to make certain we understand its concerns and recommendations." The company also said it was taking a "wide range of actions" in response to the refinery fire to increase safety.

Board investigators found an increase in sulfur content in the grades of crude oil that Chevron ran through the Richmond refinery over the years, potentially corroding refinery pipelines faster than Chevron expected. The percentage of sulfur in Richmond refinery crude oil increased nearly 85% between 1984 and 2012, the investigators said.

The board recommended Chevron hire a team of experts to review the company's US refineries for potential damaged equipment and that the company adopt "industry best practices" for safer systems.

The board also recommended California lawmakers and local officials in Richmond tighten safety regulations for oil refineries.

"Our findings and recommendations are directed immediately at the accident in the Bay Area, but we believe they apply to all refineries, chemical plants and general industry," Board chairman Rafael Moure-Eraso said in a statement.

The board plans to hold a public meeting Friday in Richmond to discuss the report.

The state Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which also investigated the incident, in January levied nearly $1 million in fines against Chevron after citing the company with 25 workplace-safety violations. The Chemical Safety Board doesn't have the power to levy fines or citations.

Chevron has said it would appeal the Cal/OSHA citations.


Dow Jones Newswires



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Lukmanul Hakim
12.31.2013

Safety should be part of culture in the organization. And, visible management behavior showing that safety culture is important to empower the employee to act the same. It is the vision that I am always pushing to all my clients organization: "From personal integrity, Towards process integrity.

Lukmanul Hakim
LebSolution

Mobile : 0813.8377.2192
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Website : www.lebsolution.com

Siva
04.18.2013

Keeping the blame aside. what is the root cause of such incidents? how to improve the awareness among people involved with day to day operations. Even they are aware, what prevents them to take appropriate actions, it is with the distortion in the communication / accuracy of the details and the perception on the risk involved. In one end every thing is seen as risk & in the place where risk is actually present which is percieved as opportunity. Clarity in this aspect with the people in the HP industry could improve the situation.
Regards,

Ray
04.18.2013

More regulation, more law, that will fix all that is wrong in the world right?

roj
04.17.2013

It was poor managergial and operational decision to remove the insulation to see where the leak was. Any good operational person know not to remove any type of insulation to look for a leak not in less you take the pressure off the piping and have adequate block valve to isolate the system.

R Ethiraj
04.17.2013

It is pertinent to note the intentional violation of a safety recommendations for want of strong will from management. If you had talked to the management even if one day before the incident they would have vouched for the safety culture being in place and for the integrity of the plant. The fact is no higher management wants to carry out forced shutdown to carry out maintenance repairs based on safety recommendations but will be willing to prolong as much as possible until something similar to this happens.
Law enforcement agencies and Safety advisory committees should have power to enforce measures that are mandatory without waiting for something to happen rather than remaining as mute spectators.

OLASUNKANMI JIMOH
04.17.2013

This is a big lesson to all refiners to pay more attention to corrosion espercially corrosion under insulations.

Pandu Rangan
04.17.2013

Main reason for the accidents are that the safety warning may have have still some margin. Mainly production after S/D for repair will not compensate the cost of shutdown. Companies feel the expenses by fine or casualities can be managed with the production.

A Federal law is must for that any annual safety report by any comapny shall be submitted to a monitoring body. A check and likely questioning will make a safet awareness.

regards

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