Chevron Contains Fire at Crude Unit in California Refinery

Chevron Said to Be Shutting California Refinery on Fire
Smoke pours from a fire at the Chevron Richmond Refinery, seen behind Alcatraz Island in San Francisco, Monday, Aug. 6, 2012. Photographer: Eric Risberg/AP Images

Chevron Corp. 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.

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.

Hazardous Materials

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.

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