CSB says Chevron’s Richmond refinery knew of problems before fire

The US Chemical Safety Board said Chevron Corp. was aware of a problem with a corroded pipe before an Aug. 6, 2012, fire at Chevron’s 240,000 b/d Richmond refinery in Martinez, Calif.

CBS, an independent board, said Chevron USA Inc. metallurgists and inspectors had warned Chevron as early as 2002 about problems with the pipe. CBS released a technical report on Feb. 13 regarding the incident.

The report, prepared by Anamet, Inc., a metallurgical laboratory in Hayward, Calif., concluded the 8-in. steel pipe, from a section designated as 4-sidecut that was installed in 1976, ruptured due to severe sulfidation corrosion.

Tested pipe samples showed a very low concentration of corrosion-inhibiting silicon, the report said.

California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) issued 25 citations and proposed fining Chevron USA nearly $1 million for state safety standard violations stemming from the fire (OGJ Online, Feb. 1, 2012).

 The fine would be the largest in Cal/OSHA’s history, the state agency said on Jan. 30. Chevron has said it will appeal the action.

The fire broke out when a severely corroded pipe in the refinery’s No. 4 crude unit began to leak, Cal/OSHA said. Chevron managers did not shut down the unit but instructed workers to remove insulation, which led to the pipe’s rupture and a massive fire, the agency said. While there were no serious worker injuries, a reported 15,000 residents of surrounding communities sought treatment after breathing emissions from the fire, it added.

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