Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Chevron Settles Refinery Fire Case

Chevron Corp. on August  5 agreed to provide $2 million in fines and restitution to settle legal actions resulting from a fire that took place at its Richmond, California refinery one year ago today.

“This criminal case achieves our goals of holding Chevron accountable for their conduct, protecting the public and ensuring a safer work environment at the refinery,” Contra Costa District Attorney Mark Peterson said in a prepared statement.

Chevron and government investigators had both found that it was pipe corrosion that caused a leak that sparked the August  6, 2012 fire. Both investigations determined that Chevron failed to replace the 40-year-old pipe despite numerous warnings from its own inspectors.

At the time of the accident, workers were reportedly in the process of repairing piping connected to the still-operating distillation tower when the leak intensified, and due to the high temperature of the material in the tower, in excess of 600 degrees Fahrenheit, the gas-oil immediately formed a large flammable vapor cloud.

No fatalities or serious injuries occurred, but the large noxious cloud resulted in about a dozen refinery employees and scores of residents of the surrounding area being hospitalized with respiratory problems and other ailments.

In January, Chevron said it paid $10 million so far to settle over 23,300 claims connected to the blaze.

Before the fire, the 2,900-acre facility, which is in the San Francisco Bay area, was processing about 242,000 barrels of crude oil daily, with the end products primarily being diesel and jet fuels, as well as gasoline. But after the blaze, production of motor fuel at the facility was cut by over 50 percent.

Before the accident, the Richmond refinery was processing 242,000 barrels of crude daily, accounting for about 12 percent of the state’s 2.09 million barrels per day of net capacity.