Chevron’s Richmond refinery project advances

The city of Richmond, Calif., has released a long-awaited draft environmental impact report (EIR) for Chevron Corp.’s $1 billion modernization project at its 257,000-b/d Richmond refinery.

Prepared by a team of consultants hired by the city of Richmond, the EIR outlines that the project—which will replace some of the refinery’s oldest processing equipment with safer modern technology meeting some of the toughest air quality standards in the US—will not change the basic operation or capacity of the refinery, according to a release from Chevron.

The project’s main project components include replacing a 1960s hydrogen plant with modern technology that is safer, cleaner, and 20% more energy efficient, which will allow the plant to process higher-quality hydrogen more efficiently and reliably, the company said.

Additionally, the project will give the refinery flexibility to process crude oil blends and gas oils containing higher levels of sulfur while meeting strict environmental regulations with the installation throughout the plant of flanges, valves, vessels, and other components meeting local and federal air pollution standards, according to Chevron.

“The modernization project is not about refining Canadian tar sands or heavy crude, and it will not allow the refinery to receive crude oil by rail or pipeline,” Chevron added.

The EIR also details extensive safety enhancements to ensure the refinery complies with safety standards and regulations, including an independent, comprehensive reliability review as well as plans to install new, upgraded piping circuits with greater resistance to corrosion.

Increased regulatory oversight and heightened reporting requirements local and federal regulatory and community groups to help ensure that the refinery processing units are operating safely also are included in the modernization project, according to the EIR.

The release of the draft EIR follows the US Chemical Safety Board’s proposal for a more-rigorous safety management regulatory framework for refineries in California that could extend to refining complexes across the nation after the agency’s December 2013 draft report on its investigation of the Aug. 6, 2012, pipe rupture and ensuing fire at the Richmond refinery, in which CSB found a stricter regulatory system could have prevented the accident (OGJ Online, Dec. 17, 2013; Aug. 13, 2012; Aug. 7, 2012).

In its April 2013 interim report on the incident, CSB previously found that Chevron repeatedly failed over a 10-year period at the Richmond refinery to apply inherently safer design principles and upgrade piping in the crude oil processing unit, which was extremely corroded and ultimately ruptured by the time of August 2012 incident (OGJ Online, Apr. 15, 2013).

The city of Richmond is scheduled to hold a hearing for public comments on the draft EIR on Apr. 17.

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