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Posts Tagged ‘Exxon Mobil’

Tuesday, August 18, 2015 @ 10:08 AM gHale

Exxon Mobil knew since 2007 an electrostatic precipitator could explode during a flammable vapor leakage and now they are facing a fine of $566,600 after a large blast at the company’s Torrance, CA, refinery in February that injured four workers.

The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health, (Cal/OSHA), issued 19 citations, most of which were serious, for workplace safety and health violations.

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Cal/OSHA found the company neglected to eliminate known hazardous conditions and “intentionally failed to comply with state safety standards,” likely resulting in workers being seriously injured or killed, according to the agency’s Department of Industrial Relations.

“Petroleum refineries have the responsibility to keep workers safe, and to also protect nearby communities and the environment,” said department director Christine Baker. “This investigation revealed severe lapses in Exxon’s safety protocols.”

Exxon Mobil is examining the citations stemming from the Feb. 18 explosion.

“We are reviewing the citations to determine the appropriate administrative and legal next steps,” Exxon Mobil spokesman Todd Spitler said. “We have, and will continue to work cooperatively with Cal/OSHA.”

Investigators concluded the blast was the result of a hydrocarbon release from the fluid catalytic cracker unit into the electrostatic precipitator — a filtration device that removes fine particulates.

The hydrocarbon release caused the electrostatic precipitator to explode.

Eight workers ended up decontaminated, and four suffered minor injuries and went to area hospitals.

After the blast, Cal/OSHA ordered Exxon Mobil to shut down the unit until it could demonstrate safe operation. The order remains in effect.

Cal/OSHA determined the company’s management knew the electrostatic precipitator could explode during a flammable vapor leakage. A safety review in 2007 addressed concerns about the leakage, but the company failed to fix it, according to Cal/OSHA.

Cal/OSHA found the fluid catalytic cracker unit was not working properly for nine years. Exxon Mobil was unable to monitor hydrocarbon pressure buildup in the unit because there was no functional pressure transmitter, according to Cal/OSHA.

That misstep led to the explosion, said Clyde Trombettas, statewide manager and policy advisor for Cal/OSHA’s Process Safety Management Unit.

Cal/OSHA said Exxon Mobil’s incident response team knew that unit’s slide valve was leaking before the explosion.

Also, Cal/OSHA found there were no written procedures on how to operate the unit when it was in a state of hot standby, which is similar to working on an idling car. Exxon Mobil has repaired the errors.

“Exxon Mobil is surprisingly one of the most proactive refineries,” Trombettas said.

But the Torrance refinery must still complete its start-up procedures to lift the shut down order for fluid catalytic cracking unit.

The start-up procedures must address any mechanical actions, address any concerns and include training for workers operating the unit.

Cal/OSHA has investigated the refinery twice in the last five years for serious accidents resulting in injuries.

Only one involved the fluid catalytic cracker unit. In that one, a worker suffered a broken jaw and lost six teeth while working on the fluid catalytic cracker unit on March 29, 2011. The worker was attempting to shut down a failed pump, but the pump’s motor failed and exploded.

The other accident occurred in September 2011.

Exxon Mobil received eight citations, three of which were serious, in those cases.

The seriousness of the blast is comparable to the Aug. 6, 2012 Chevron refinery fire in Richmond, Trombettas said. In that incident, a severely corroded pipe in Chevron’s No. 4 Crude Unit began leaking and a massive fire broke out.

Cal/OSHA issued 25 citations against Chevron, resulting in nearly $1 million in penalties. Cal/OSHA found Chevron didn’t follow recommendations to replace the corroded pipe.

The explosions have led to proposed changes in the regulation of petroleum refineries. The proposals include employee participation reviews of damaged mechanisms and safeguard protection and hazard control analysis, according to Cal/OSHA.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015 @ 12:04 PM gHale

Exxon Mobil will pay $225 million for contamination at refineries and other polluted sites across New Jersey under a settlement state officials are calling “historic.”

The deal between the state and the Texas oil giant ends more than a decade of litigation over the environmental damage at two refineries, known as Bayway and Bayonne, which have seen leaks, spillage and dumping of harmful chemicals going back to the late nineteenth century.

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The agreement has been a source of controversy in recent weeks because the state claimed the oil giant owed it $8.9 billion for the pollution at a trial last year, but quietly settled just before a judge was to rule in the case.

State officials published the full text of the agreement in the New Jersey Register Monday, starting off a public comment period before the deal goes before a judge.

“This proposed settlement meets the goals we set for this case, which were to recover an amount certain that fairly and reasonably compensated the State for natural resource damages, and reinforce ExxonMobil’s requirement to clean up the Bayway and Bayonne sites,” said Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman in announcing the deal.

The settlement also clears Exxon’s liability for pollution at 16 other industrial sites and hundreds of gas stations around the state, according to a copy of the agreement. The company also admits no wrongdoing as part of the settlement.

“Some of these sites are pretty contaminated on their own,” said Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, calling the agreement “an even bigger giveaway” because the other sites weren’t included in the original suit.

The state Department of Environmental Protection assessed the value of the contamination at those other facilities around $5 million.

Representatives for the company declined to comment on the details of the agreement.

The settlement also reserves the state’s right to file suit over surface water damages in Arthur Kill or Newark Bay, and over the discharge of a hazardous gasoline additive, known as MTBE, at 860 of the company’s current and former service stations.

The agreement is in addition to the ongoing cleanups at Bayonne and Bayway under a consent order reached in the early 1990s.

“On top of the historic payout for this natural resources damages settlement, there is no cap on what ExxonMobil must spend to complete the remediation work,” DEP Commissioner Bob Martin said.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014 @ 08:10 AM gHale

Crews continued the cleanup effort Sunday from a pipeline oil leak in Marion, TX.

The leak ended up discovered Wednesday in Guadalupe County. Since then, over two dozen men have been working in the rural area to remove much of the dirt soaked with refined oil.

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There are two pipelines that run through the area: One belongs to the Koch Company and the other to Exxon Mobil.

Both companies had investigators in the area to determine what company was responsible for the leak. Late Saturday night, Exxon claimed responsibility in a statement.

“An estimate on the total amount of the release is unknown, and an investigation is under way,” part of the statement read.

Exxon officials also said they shut down the line and they will not reopen it until they are confident it is safe to do so.

The pipeline delivers refined products from Baytown to South Houston and San Antonio.

Crews on the scene installed booms to keep the product from seeping into a nearby tributary that feeds into the Santa Clara Creek.

There is no timetable as to when workers will complete the cleanup and the pipeline can reopen.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014 @ 12:07 PM gHale

BP Exploration Alaska settled a complaint with the Alaska state and federal governments over four oil-related spills on Alaska’s North Slope from 2007 to 2011.

The complaint and proposed settlement, filed in federal court Friday, calls for a $450,000 penalty, $180,100 of which would go to the state with the rest to the federal government.

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BP Alaska spokeswoman Dawn Patience said BP’s share would be about $118,000, reflecting the company’s ownership share at Prudhoe Bay. The other owners at Prudhoe are Exxon Mobil, ConocoPhillips and Chevron.

She said BP is glad to have resolved the matter and is focusing on operating the field in a “safe, reliable and compliant manner.”

Monday, March 31, 2014 @ 07:03 PM gHale

By Gregory Hale
There are times when mistakes happen time and time again and no one seems to learn from them. That has got to change and Carlos Barrera is trying to help.

“The ultimate goal of an incident investigation is to find the underlying reasons for the occurrence of the event in order to prevent its reoccurrence. These reasons can be divided in two categories: root-causes and causal factors,” said Barrera, managing engineer at Menlo Park, CA-based Exponent during his break out session Monday during the 16th Process Plant Safety Symposium at the AIChE Spring Meeting and 10th Global Congress on Process Safety in New Orleans. “There is an incident and the company forms a team to investigate. It could last a couple of days or it could take a long time. You want to find the root cause.”

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Sometimes the investigation ends up being very mechanical and it just seems like people are checking boxes on a form. It should not be that way, Barrera said.

“Lessons learned should not be a slogan everyone learns until the next incident comes up,” he said. “An investigation is a much more complex scenario. If you want to eradicate the problem, you have to find the root cause.”

Incident investigation teams identify root causes, but don’t pay enough attention to the causal factors, leading to the generation of recommendations that sometimes take care of the symptom but don’t cure the disease, he said.

Kelly Keim couldn’t agree more.

The Exxon Mobil research and engineering global technology sponsor for process safety said his company goes to great lengths to truly understand the root cause of the problem.

“We really have to find the cause of the phenomenon,” he said

During his presentation, Keim talked about how they could use data analysis to determine common themes from all process safety events from a company’s global manufacturing operations across 50 sites. The process covers identification of all process safety events, selection criteria for those to undergo greater analysis, identification of opportunities and where additional investigation could add value.

Part of what Exxon does is they characterize the significance of the event by applying API RP 754 performance indicators for the refining and petrochemical industries and they also use their own device called the incident risk analysis tool. They also standardize the investigation methodology. That means they are going to specify what data they are going to collect and then they give each incident an individual identifier. They will then start to dig down and collect as much information as they can that shows the activity, equipment, direct cause, root cause and the management system.

Once they get the information they are able to place it into four categories, near miss, tier 1, tier 2 and tier 3.

A tier 1 incident gets a full investigation and a tier 2 incident will also most likely get a closer look. Tier 3 and a near miss will get an investigation, but not as intense as the top two.

“After collecting the data and information, they create graphs; now is the time for true data analysis,” Keim said.

Through their own analysis and intense investigations, Keim said they were able to cut down on major incidents by about 10 percent.

Monday, November 11, 2013 @ 03:11 PM gHale

Exxon Mobil Corp.’s will pay a $2.6 million fine for not following policies for testing and reporting risks associated with the rupture of its pipeline in Mayflower, AR, federal officials said.

ExxonMobil Pipeline Company’s Pegasus Pipeline leaked March 29, sending 5,000 barrels of crude oil through a suburban neighborhood.

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The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) fined Irving-based Exxon Wednesday for nine violations carrying a civil penalty of $2.6 million.

PHMSA said Exxon had knew the pipeline would be susceptible to seam failure, and it did not conduct proper testing after discovering risks and not reporting them to regulators.

PHMSA also said Exxon failed to follow its own policies and combined pipeline segments for testing purposes, which masked the threat.

The pipeline has remained out of service since the accident.

Exxon faces multiple lawsuits from homeowners, the state of Arkansas and the federal government. The oil giant bought out at least two homes affected by the spill.

Monday, September 16, 2013 @ 11:09 AM gHale

Exxon Mobil Corp. is facing charges of illegally dumping more than 50,000 gallons (189,000 liters) of wastewater at a shale-gas drilling site in Pennsylvania.

Exxon unit XTO Energy Inc. discharged the water from waste tanks at the Marquandt well site in Lycoming County in 2010, according to a statement on the website of Pennsylvania’s attorney general. Investigators found the pollution during an unannounced visit by the state’s Department of Environmental Protection.

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The inspectors discovered a plug removed from a tank, allowing the wastewater to run onto the ground, polluting a nearby stream. Officials ordered XTO to remove 3,000 tons of soil to clean up the area. Wastewater discharged from natural-gas wells can contain chlorides, barium, strontium and aluminum, the attorney general’s statement showed.

“Criminal charges are unwarranted and legally baseless,” the XTO unit said in a statement posted on its website. “There was no intentional, reckless or negligent misconduct by XTO.”

Pennsylvania has become one of the biggest gas-producing states in the past five years as explorers drill the Marcellus shale, a rock formation stretching across the northeast U.S. that holds 24 percent of the nation’s shale gas reserves, according to the Energy Information Administration. Exxon purchased XTO in 2009 for $34.9 billion.

XTO faces five counts of unlawful conduct under the Clean Streams Law and three counts under the Solid Waste Management Act.

“Charging XTO under these circumstances could discourage good environmental practices,” the company said. “This action tells oil and gas operators that setting up infrastructure to recycle produced water exposes them to the risk of significant legal and financial penalties should a small release occur.”

The company said it “acted quickly” to clean up the spill and there was “no lasting environmental impact,” according to the statement.

XTO said it agreed to pay “reasonable civil penalties” in a July 18, 2013 settlement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Justice. It also agreed to recycle at least half its drilling wastewater, according to the agreement.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013 @ 10:06 AM gHale

The Justice Department filed a joint lawsuit with Arkansas Thursday against oil giant Exxon Mobil Corp over the pipeline spill in March of thousands of barrels of heavy Canadian crude oil in a suburban Arkansas neighborhood.

The 95,000 barrels per day Pegasus line remains shut since spilling the oil in Mayflower, AR, where cleanup operations continue. U.S. oil pipelines rarely spill in towns.

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The Justice Department said it is seeking civil penalties against Exxon under federal law.

Arkansas is seeking civil penalties for violations of state waste and pollution laws. The state also seeks a judgment on Exxon’s liability for damages related to the spill of about 5,000 barrels that contaminated 22 homes, forcing residents to evacuate.

An Exxon spokesman said the company has yet to review the allegations and had yet to formally receive the complaint.

The spill sparked debate about the wisdom of shipping heavy Canadian crude across the United States, as the State Department considers TransCanada Corp’s application for the Keystone XL pipeline, which would link Alberta’s oil sands to refineries in Texas.

The lawsuit said the Pegasus pipeline was two feet below the ground in the Mayflower neighborhood, about 25 miles from Little Rock, the state capital.

Federal pipeline regulators this month gave Exxon time to conduct a second round of testing on Pegasus after the company said an initial investigation into why the nearly 70-year-old line failed was inconclusive. The pipeline runs from Illinois to Texas.

Exxon installed a new section of the pipeline in April after it removed a 52-foot-long (15.8 meter) damaged section, but it has yet to file a restart plan with federal regulators.

Monday, April 8, 2013 @ 03:04 PM gHale

Exxon Mobil Pipeline Co. is now facing a federal corrective action order after one of its pipelines ruptured last week in central Arkansas.

The order from the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration comes after Exxon Mobil’s Pegasus pipeline ruptured a week ago Friday in the city of Mayflower, about 25 miles northwest of Little Rock.

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The order prevents Exxon Mobil from restarting operations on the failed segment of the pipeline until the agency is happy with repairs and is confident the company met all immediate safety concerns.

Investigators are still working to figure out what caused the pipeline to rupture, but the corrective action order said Exxon Mobil reversed the system flow of the pipeline in 2006.

“A change in direction of flow can affect the hydraulic and stress demands on the pipeline,” the order said.

About 3,500 to 5,000 barrels of crude oil spilled after the pipeline ruptured, according to Exxon Mobil estimates cited in the corrective action order. That oil spewed onto lawns and roadways and almost fouled nearby Lake Conway. No one was hurt, but the spill led authorities to evacuate more than 20 homes.

The pipeline, which runs from Patoka, IL, to the Texas Gulf Coast, was originally built in 1947 and 1948, according to federal pipeline safety officials. It will remain out of service for now. In order for that to change, Exxon Mobil would need written approval from a federal pipeline safety official, according to the corrective action order.

Exxon Mobil also has to submit a restart plan, complete testing and analysis about why the pipeline failed and jump through a number of other hoops under the order.
The order signed by Jeffrey Wiese, associate administrator for pipeline safety, said “continued operation of the Pegasus Pipeline would be hazardous to life, property, and the environment.”

The federal agency’s order comes as Arkansas’ attorney general promised a state investigation into the cause and impact of the spill and other officials say they plan to ask Exxon to move the Pegasus pipeline to protect drinking water.

Friday, April 5, 2013 @ 04:04 PM gHale

Oil rigs and platforms have fallen victim to malware that has in the past shut them down.

While all companies are aware of the ever growing issue of cyber security hitting the industry, one company, Exxon Mobil, is trying to ingrain security into its DNA, much like safety. The catch is the message is coming from the top.

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Exxon Mobil Chief Executive, Rex Tillerson, said the Texas-based multinational oil and gas corporation that’s the second-largest publicly traded company in the world has started taking cyber security just as seriously as the security of physical operations.

“At the end, it all comes back to people, regardless of how great the technology is and regardless of how much the technology enables us to do things without the human hand maybe touching as much,” Tillerson said.

Malware and cyber attacks in general have become highly sophisticated. With enough resources, cybercriminals can breach almost any network.

As reported before, if an attacker is targeting a certain network, he will get in. But the defense can thwart an attack if it has a solid defense in depth program and it remains vigilant.

In quite a few cases, the success of targeted attacks relies on a certain degree of social engineering and the exploitation of human weaknesses, which is why it’s important for organizations to focus on this aspect of security if they want to protect themselves.

That is what Exxon Mobil is working on.

“When you introduce new technology, it still has to be managed by people, so people have to understand that technology. They have to understand its capabilities and, more importantly, they have to understand its limitations,” Tillerson said in a published report.

“So as technology continues to be advanced and introduced into everything that we do, whether it’s computer-related or some other capability, people are still the interface with that technology. So you have to continue to manage the person.”

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