CA Refinery Ready; Opening Delayed

Friday, April 5, 2013 @ 03:04 PM gHale

Chevron finished repairs and replacement work on a crucial unit at its Richmond, CA, refinery damaged in a fire last August, but regulatory approvals will delay its reopening at least until June.

If all goes well with final regulatory approvals, the refinery will be back on line by the end of June, which would be later than prior estimates the energy giant had provided in public disclosures, company officials said.

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In late January, a state Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) issued 25 citations against Chevron and slapped it with a nearly $1 million fine — the highest amount allowed by state law — in connection with the fire.

Cal/OSHA said Chevron did not follow the recommendations of its own inspectors and metallurgy scientists to replace the corroded pipe that ultimately ruptured and caused the fire. It also said Chevron did not follow its own emergency shutdown procedures after identifying the leak and did not protect workers at the leak site.

“We are waiting to complete the final regulatory steps required to restart the crude oil processing unit,” said company spokesman Sean Comey. “We expect to resume normal operations in the second quarter of this year.”

Several months ago, Chevron said it would have the crude unit, described by experts as the heart of the refinery, back on line by the end of March. The current estimate would push the restart to as late as the end of June.

The Richmond refinery has been operating at about 60 percent capacity in the wake of the fire.

Comey said Chevron has “begun to implement certain measures to strengthen process safety, mechanical integrity and management oversight, both at our Richmond refinery and across our manufacturing network as appropriate.”

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