SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A fire at one of the country’s largest refineries spewed thick black smoke over cities in the San Francisco Bay area, sending scores of residents to hospitals complaining of breathing problems early Tuesday.
Doctors Medical Center in San Pablo, a town near the Chevron refinery in Richmond, said about 200 people had sought help and more patients were arriving. Kaiser’s Richmond Medical Center also said several dozen people came to the emergency room complaining of shortness of breath, but none was seriously ill.
Residents said they heard loud blasts around 6:15 p.m., when the fire broke out, although Chevron officials could not confirm those reports.
Daniela Rodriguez told the Contra Costa Times that she heard a “big boom” about the time the fire started. The 23-year-old resident said about an hour passed before she received an automated call from Contra Costa County to remain indoors.
“I was feeling kind of nauseous and light-headed (from the smell),” she told the newspaper.
The Chevron Richmond Refinery makes high-quality products that include gasoline, jet fuel, diesel fuel and lubricants, as well as chemicals used to manufacture many other useful products. The blaze started Monday evening when a diesel leak ignited at the refinery’s No. 4 Crude Unit, Nigel Hearne, manager of the refinery, told The San Francisco Chronicle.
Randy Sawyer, the chief environmental and hazardous materials officer for the county’s health services agency, said any kind of smoke can be toxic, but added: “In this smoke, there can also be all kind of byproducts that can be toxic.”
The agency had four teams of inspectors testing air quality, Sawyer said.
The blaze at the plant in Richmond, about 10 miles northeast of San Francisco, was contained by late Monday although it was not immediately known when the flames would be extinguished, said company spokeswoman Heather Kulp.
One employee suffered a minor injury and was receiving first aid, Chevron officials said.
County health officials used automated calls to warn residents of Richmond, San Pablo and the unincorporated community of North Richmond to “shelter in place,” meaning they should not only stay inside, but should also turn off heaters, air conditioners and fans, and to cover cracks around doors with tape or damp towels.
To the south, Oakland police issued a community advisory suggesting that residents of the North Oakland Hills area close all windows and doors and turn off air conditioners.
A fire at the refinery in January 2007 injured two workers and spewed low levels of sulfur dioxide and other toxins into the air. County officials said then that it was not enough to harm the health of nearby residents.
During an evening news conference, Hearne apologized “to the community for the fire and smoke this evening at the Richmond refinery.”
The refinery is the largest producer of base oils on the West Coast, processing up to 240,000 barrels of crude oil a day, according to the company’s website.
The company said Monday it did not know yet whether production would be affected. The 2007 fire shut down the refinery for most of that year’s first quarter.
4.2 Public Safety and Hazardous Materials August 2011 4.2-3 Conoco Phillips Santa Maria Refinery Throughput Increase DEIR
Oils are typically mixtures of many different compounds, most of which are hydrocarbons. There are a series of main hydrocarbon groups in petroleum. Saturates are hydrocarbons with straightchains of carbon atoms, while aromatics are hydrocarbons consisting of rings of carbon.Asphaltenes are complex polycyclic hydrocarbons that contain many complicated carbon ringsand nitrogen-, sulfur-, and oxygen-containing compounds.Sulfur in crude oil occurs in many natural compounds including hydrogen sulfide (H
S), a toxic gas that can cause injuries or fatalities if released to the atmosphere and subsequently inhaled.Total sulfur ranges from approximately one to four percent by weight in crude oils, while H
S concentrations can reach 100 parts per million (ppm) in “sour” crudes. Fortunately, its strong,pungent odor is detectable at a level substantially below that which causes adverse health effects.However, H
S also causes paralysis of the olfactory functions at levels below health effects.Other constituents of crude oil include nitrogen and oxygen compounds, as well as water- and metal-containing compounds, such as iron, vanadium, and nickel.The processed gas at the Refinery is used in processes at the Refinery. The majority of the gas is methane with some smaller amounts of ethane and butane and inert compounds (such as CO
).Produced gas presents hazards due to its flammability in the form of vapor cloud fires and explosions, and thermal radiation impacts due to flame jet fires emanating from a gas leak or rupture
CEO JOHN WATSON
opens Chevron’s 2010 Annual Repor by telling the corporation’s stockholders that “2010 was a noutstanding year or Chevron.”
We do not agree. We, the communities who bear the costs of Chevron’s op-erations, have witnessed a year in which Chevron’s perormancewas anything but exceptional. As we have documented in this third installment of the
An Alternative Annual Report
, Chevron continues its long history o ravaging natural environments, violating human rights, ignoring the longstanding decisions of Indigenous communities, destroying traditional livelihoods, and converting its dollars into unjust political influence in the United States and around the world.This report is a record of egregious corporate behavior that—in locations as diverse as California, Burma, Colombia,Ecuador, Kazakhstan, Nigeria, the Philippines and the U.S.Gulf Coast—has spanned decades and carries on today.In the year that saw the world’s largest unintentional oil spill, intensifying global concerns about the safety of the hydro-carbon industry, Chevron has failed to change its behavior.In 2010, Chevron pursued ever-riskier and ever-deeper off-shore projects in the South China Sea, the North Sea, the U.S.Gulf Coast, and the Canadian Arctic.
Chevron Corp. (CVX) said it contained a fire that broke out in the crude unit at its Richmond refinery, the largest in Northern California.
The company was bringing down units after a blaze at the No. 4 crude unit started yesterday around 6:15 p.m. local time, according to a person with direct knowledge of the operation who asked not to be identified because the information isn’t public.
Enlarge image Chevron Said to Be Shutting California Refinery on Fire
Built on a peninsula of low hills rising from San Francisco Bay, the refinery became the West Coast’s largest and most advanced plant upon its completion in July 1902, according to the website. Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg
Flames were brought under control as of 10:30 p.m. local time, and all employees at the refinery have been accounted for, said Melissa Ritchie, a Chevron spokeswoman at the plant. One person was being treated for minor burns on the wrist, she said. The plant reported an evacuation after the fire broke out, a filing with the California Emergency Management Agency shows.
Crews determined there was a diesel leak from a line in the crude unit that may have started the fire, Ritchie said. She declined to confirm the definite cause of the incident.
The Contra Costa County health-services department issued a shelter-in-place advisory for Richmond, North Richmond and San Pablo because of the fire. The agency recommended that residents stay inside their homes or the nearest buildings, bring pets indoors, close doors and windows, and make sure vents and fireplaces are closed.
The Richmond plant can process 240,000 barrels a day of feedstock, data compiled by Bloomberg show. The plant is about 110 years old, according to the company’s website. Built on a peninsula of low hills rising from San Francisco Bay, the refinery became the West Coast’s largest and most-advanced plant upon its completion in July 1902, according to the website.
The county’s hazardous materials division was at the refinery to test air quality, according to a notice from the health department. The plant released sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, hydrogen oxide, sulfuric acid and nitrogen dioxide because of the fire, the state filing shows.
BART, the regional transit system, halted service between the Richmond station and El Cerrito Plaza, a notice on the agency’s website shows.
The refinery produces gasoline, jet fuel, diesel, lubricants and other oil products, according to the company’s website. The plant is one of six refineries that make up more than 75 percent of Chevron’s total refining capacity, the website shows.
Nov. 14 Incident
The refinery shut a crude unit on Nov. 14 after vacuum residuum, made up of heavy hydrocarbons, leaked from a bleeder on a filter and “auto ignited,” Chevron said in a filing to county regulators following that fire. The unit was returned to service later that same month, two people with direct knowledge of the plant’s operations said Nov. 29.
Chevron’s oil refineries and filling stations earned $1.88 billion as U.S. processing margins climbed to a second-quarter record average of $28.98 a barrel when crude costs fell faster than gasoline prices.
Chevron’s net income fell to $7.21 billion, or $3.66 a share, from $7.73 billion, or $3.85, a year earlier, the San Ramon, California-based company said in a statement July 27. The result was 35 cents more than the average of four analysts’ estimates compiled by Bloomberg, which ranged from $3.10 to $3.47.
Ready for Gas prices to spike?
A huge Refinery near Oakland California capable of producing 240,000 barrels a day burns early Monday Morning…Residents have been urged to stay inside, and the area is being evacuated.A Level 3 Hazmat emergency has been declared…developing…Starting at the Chevron refinery shortly before 5:30 a.m. a shelter-in-place order has been issued, authorities said.
The countywide warning system was activated, a dispatcher with the county’s hazardous materials department said.
The fire may cause eye, skin, nose or respiratory irritation in the community. To shelter in place, West County residents should pick a windowless interior room, turn off fans and heating and air-conditioning systems and keep a radio, television or computer on for updates.
Toll operators from the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge have been cleared from booths, the Highway Patrol said. Toll gates will be left open; drivers in the area are advised to use caution, including turning off ventilation and close windows as they pass through.
No immediate word was available on injuries.
Commuters who use the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge got an unexpected benefit from the fire. Toll takers were told to shelter in place and stopped taking tolls for part of the morning commute.
In April 2010 Chevron released its 2009 Annual Report. It would not take long for the cover design – Chevron’s Gulf of Mexico ultra-deepwater drillship, the Discoverer Clear Leader – to seem a terribly poor choice.
Just days prior to publication, 18,000 gallons of crude oil spilled from a Chevron operated pipeline in the Delta National Wildlife Refuge in southeastern Louisiana.
A far worse disaster struck less than two weeks later. The largest blowout of an oil and gas well in the Gulf of Mexico in 30 years killed eleven people and saturated the surrounding areas in a blanket of oily destruction. The rig was owned and operated by Transocean, the same company with which Chevron has a five-year contract to operate the Discoverer Clear Leader, among other Chevron offshore rigs.
While the cover image of Chevron’s Annual Report shows a pristine rig, perhaps the more appropriate photo for Chevron will prove to be the image on page two: the sun setting on Chevron’s Way.
Chevron’s 2009 Annual Report celebrates 130 years of Chevron operations. In it, the company declares that the “values of The Chevron Way” include operating “with the highest standards of integrity and respect for human rights,” a deep commitment “to safe and efficient operations and to conducting our business in an environmentally sound manner,” and the building of “strong partnerships to produce energy and support communities.”
We, the communities and our allies who bear the consequences of Chevron’s offshore drilling rigs, oil and natural gas production, coal fields, refineries, depots, pipelines, exploration, chemical plants, political control, consumer abuse, false promises, and much more, have a very different account to offer. Thus, we have once again prepared an Alternative Annual Report for Chevron.
Written by dozens of community leaders from sixteen countries and ten states across the United States where Chevron operates, the 60-page report encompasses the full range of Chevron’s activities, from coal to chemicals, offshore to onshore production, pipelines to refineries, natural gas to toxic waste, and lobbying and campaign contributions to greenwashing. CorpWatch is proud to be a contributor to this important collaborative report.
On May 25, forty report authors will appear in Houston at a press conference to address the true cost of Chevron’s operations in their communities. On May 26, they will deliver the report directly to Chevron inside the company’s Annual General Meeting (AGM) while supporters rally outside.Source
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