Chevron settles charges stemming from Richmond refinery fire

Chevron USA Inc. agreed to pay $2 million in fines on Aug. 5 as it pleaded no contest to six charges stemming from a fire at its Richmond, Calif., refinery nearly a year earlier. The company agreed to inspect all pipe subject to sulfidation corrosion and substantially change its business practices to better protect employees and other workers, emergency residents, and local residents, Contra Costa County District Attorney Mark A. Peterson said.

“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,” he continued. “This historic resolution is also possible due to Chevron’s commitment to do more than what is required by law in order to help ensure nothing like this ever happens again.”

OGJ was unable to get a statement from Chevron because its media relations e-mail comment request system is not in working order, and an operator at the company’s main telephone number refused to put a call through even when he was informed of the problem.

Chevron admitted to four violations of California’s Labor Code and two of its Health and Safety Code. The fire broke out Aug. 6, 2012, after a pipe ruptured, releasing a flammable fluid which ignited. The blaze shut down the plant’s No. 4 crude oil unit and sent more than 15,000 people living nearby to area hospitals.

As a condition of its plea, Chevron will be placed on probation for three and a half years, Peterson said. During that time, it will inspect all carbon steel piping systems in the refinery identified as susceptible to sulfidation corrosion, and let the California Occupational and Safety and Health Division (Cal/OSHA) oversee any repair or replacement decisions, he indicated.

The company also will be required to confer with experts about what repairs and upgrades must be done, and document reasons that any aren’t or are deferred, Peterson said. It also will consider damage mechanisms when making changes to work processes to ensure safeguards are in place to control hazards, provide enhanced safety training, and promote transparency through reporting and verifications reports, he said.

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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