Investigation into Chevron refinery fire in California finds thinned pipe wall


A key pipe in the unit that caught fire at Chevron’s refinery in Richmond, Calif., had lost about 80% of its thickness before the August accident, a federal investigator said Wednesday.

The pipe is one of the focuses of the investigation into how the fire started at the 245,000 bpd refinery.

The blaze lasted for hours, sending black smoke over the San Francisco Bay and forcing local residents to shelter in place.

An inspection of a 4-foot segment of a pipe leading from the refinery's crude distillation unit showed its walls were 1/16 of an inch thick, down from its normal 5/16 of an inch, said Daniel Horowitz, spokesman for the Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board, an independent agency that investigates accidents at refineries.

Chevron in November removed another pipe near the one now being inspected. Investigators were now looking at why Chevron didn't replace both pipes.

“That's the prevailing view, that this is a big reason why the event occurred,” Mr. Horowitz said. “As to why that thinning occurred, that's what we'll have to find out.”

A Chevron spokesman wasn't immediately available.

Dow Jones Newswires

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