CSB draft report says neglect led to Chevron Richmond refinery fire

A failure to apply an inherently safer design, identify and evaluate damage mechanism hazards, and use effective safeguards led to an Aug. 6, 2012, pipe rupture and vapor release that ignited and shut down the No. 4 crude oil unit at Chevron USA Inc.’s Richmond, Calif., refinery, the US Chemical Safety Board said in a draft report.

Investigators found that Chevron did not apply inherently safer design principles and upgrade piping in the unit over 10 years, leading to extreme corrosion that ultimately made the pipe rupture and release a vapor cloud that ultimately caught fire, endangering 19 workers who had narrowly escaped moments earlier, CSB said.

“Chevron failed to replace critical sections of piping in the crude oil unit over a 10-year period,” CSB Chairman Rafael Moure-Eraso told reporters at an Apr. 15 briefing in the Northern California community. “This incident would not have occurred if it had followed its own internal regulations to implement improved technology.”

If Chevron had done this, or if government regulators had required it to implement safer technology, it would have upgraded critical crude unit sidecut piping years ago from carbon steel to metallurgy more resistant to sulfidation corrosion, the draft report said. Such a material upgrade could have prevented the accident, it added.

“Chevron had resources, time, and technical expertise to know the risk. However, there was no effective intervention before an accident could occur,” Moure-Eraso said. “Make no mistake: The ultimate issue is not corrosion, but how to make effective corporate decisions. Regulators also need effective tools and resources to encourage companies to make the right choices.”

The CSB draft report said that even when rebuilding the crude oil unit after the August 2012 release and fire, Chevron did not install what the CSB considers inherently safer stainless steel piping in the destroyed distillation tower, choosing instead, with no documented inherently safer technology review, an alloy called 9-Chrome that is more corrosion-resistant than carbon steel but less resistant than stainless steel.

Acted at El Segundo

It did this despite the company’s installing stainless steel piping in the 4-sidecut section of the distillation tower in a nearly identical refinery unit at El Segundo, Calif., in 2001, considering it to be the safest material, CSB investigators found.

The draft report is subject to a CSB vote on Apr. 19 in Richmond. There also will be a public meeting that day at the city’s civic center where CSB investigators will discuss their investigation in detail and public comments will be heard.

CSB said its investigators recommended that Chevron perform damage mechanism hazard reviews and ensure safeguards are in place to control identified hazards at all of its refineries. It also called for reporting of process safety indicators to enable more effective oversight by federal, state, and local regulatory agencies.

The problems uncovered in this investigation should be addressed by all US refiners and government regulators at all levels, CSB’s chairman said. “The refining industry should open its doors to public scrutiny, including information about deferred maintenance and use of safer technology,” he suggested.

“Regulatory agencies are under-resourced to do the required inspections and audits,” Moure-Eraso said. “The report shows the need for companies to not only review corrosion, but also to document and explain deferred maintenance decisions.”

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

Related Articles

EPA approves Magellan’s Corpus Christi splitter project

12/12/2014 The US Environmental Protection Agency has issued a final greenhouse gas prevention of significant deterioration construction permit to Magellan Pr...

Keyera to take majority interest in Alberta gas plant

12/12/2014 Keyera Corp., Calgary, will pay $65 million (Can.) to buy a 70.79% ownership interest in the Ricinus deep-cut gas plant in west-central Alberta.

PBF Energy, PBF Logistics make management changes

12/12/2014 Matthew Lucey, currently executive vice-president of PBF Energy Inc., will succeed Michael Gayda as the company’s president. Todd O’Malley, current...

TAEP: TPI still peaking, but ‘contraction unavoidable’ as oil prices fall

12/12/2014 The Texas Petro Index (TPI), a composite index based on a comprehensive group of upstream economic indicators released by the Texas Alliance of Ene...

MARKET WATCH: NYMEX crude oil price extends slump

12/12/2014 Crude oil prices extended their slump on the New York market with a Dec. 11 settlement of less than $60/bbl for January, and prices continued downw...

US needs more data before ending crude export ban, House panel told

12/11/2014 Much more environmental impact information is needed before the US can reasonably remove crude oil export limits, a witness told a House Energy and...

BOEM raises offshore oil spill liability limit to $134 million

12/11/2014 The US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management increased the liability limit for oil-spill related damages from offshore operations to $134 million from ...

Rosneft, Essar sign terms of oil supply agreement

12/11/2014 OAO Rosneft and Essar Energy PLC have signed key terms of an oil supply agreement in New Delhi. Rosneft said shipments to India may begin in 2015.

Barton introduces bill to remove US crude export limits

12/11/2014

US Rep. Joe Barton (R-Tex.) introduced legislation that would remove US crude oil export limits that have been in place for nearly 40 years.

White Papers

AVEVA NET Accesses and Manages the Digital Asset

Global demand for new process plants, power plants and infrastructure is increasing steadily with the ...
Sponsored by

AVEVA’s Approach for the Digital Asset

To meet the requirements for leaner project execution and more efficient operations while transferring...
Sponsored by

Diversification - the technology aspects

In tough times, businesses seek to diversify into adjacent markets or to apply their skills and resour...
Sponsored by

Engineering & Design for Lean Construction

Modern marketing rhetoric claims that, in order to cut out expensive costs and reduce risks during the...
Sponsored by

Object Lessons - Why control of engineering design at the object level is essential for efficient project execution

Whatever the task, there is usually only one way to do it right and many more to do it wrong. In the c...
Sponsored by

Plant Design for Lean Construction - at your fingertips

One area which can provide improvements to the adoption of Lean principles is the application of mobil...
Sponsored by

How to Keep Your Mud System Vibrator Hose from Getting Hammered to Death

To prevent the vibrating hoses on your oilfield mud circulation systems from failing, you must examine...
Sponsored by

Duty of Care

Good corporate social responsibility means implementing effective workplace health and safety measures...
Sponsored by

Available Webcasts


On Demand

Optimizing your asset management practices to mitigate the effects of a down market

Thu, Dec 11, 2014

The oil and gas market is in constant flux, and as the price of BOE (Barrel of Oil Equivalent) goes down it is increasingly important to optimize your asset management strategy to stay afloat.  Attend this webinar to learn how developing a solid asset management plan can help your company mitigate costs in any market.

register:WEBCAST


Parylene Conformal Coatings for the Oil & Gas Industry

Thu, Nov 20, 2014

In this concise 30-minute webinar, participants have an opportunity to learn more about how Parylene coatings are applied, their features, and the value they add to devices and components.

register:WEBCAST


Utilizing Predictive Analytics to Optimize Productivity in Oil & Gas Operations

Tue, Nov 18, 2014

Join IBM on Tuesday, November 18 @ 1pm CST to explore how Predictive Analytics can help your organization maximize productivity, operational performance & associated processes to drive enterprise wide productivity and profitability.

register:WEBCAST


US HYDROCARBON EXPORTS Part 3 — LNG

Fri, Nov 14, 2014

US LNG Exports, the third in a trilogy of webcasts focusing on the broad topic of US Hydrocarbon Exports.

A discussion of the problems and potential for the export of US-produced liquefied natural gas.

These and other topics will be discussed, with the latest thoughts on U.S. LNG export policy.

register:WEBCAST


Careers at TOTAL

Careers at TOTAL - Videos

More than 600 job openings are now online, watch videos and learn more!

 

Click Here to Watch

Other Oil & Gas Industry Jobs

Search More Job Listings >>
Stay Connected