Chevron replaces pipes at other US refineries after Richmond fire incident


Chevron CEO John Watson said Thursday the US oil company replaced pipes in at least one other US refinery based on a check of facilities following the August fire at its refinery in Richmond, Calif.

The fire at the 245,000-bpd refinery sent thousands of local residents to area hospitals with minor injuries and has resulted in threats of class action lawsuits against the San Ramon, Calif., company.

Investigations of the accident have so far focused on corroded pipes found in the crude-distillation unit, where the fire started, that hadn't been flagged as dangerous in an earlier unit inspection.

"We changed out pipe in some other locations," Mr. Watson told reporters following a speech at the Council on Foreign Relations. Mr. Watson said the 260,000-bpd El Segundo refinery, also in California, was one site where the company changed pipes.

Chevron spokesman Russ Yarrow said the company replaced steel in the Richmond refinery in the part of the crude unit that was damaged in the fire. One of the problems with the steel in the unit was that its silicon content was too low and the company hadn't done adequate maintenance on the pipes, which were made of carbon steel.

Chevron's decision to replace the Richmond piping with nine chrome, another type of metal, has also caused controversy. The US Chemical Safety Board, an independent federal agency charged with investigating industrial accidents, asked Chevron to use another material because the agency deems other metals more suitable for the refining environment.

The Richmond City Council passed a resolution on Nov. 20 asking Chevron to delay repairs to the Richmond refinery until the investigation into its cause is complete. The council cited misgivings about the technology used in making the repairs.

Mr. Yarrow said the 230,000-bpd Richmond refinery is currently running at reduced capacity, but he declined to say by how much. The plant is on track to resume normal operations in the first quarter of next year, he said.

Dow Jones Newswires

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