Chevron releases final report on Richmond refinery fire

April 12, 2013 6:57:36 PM PDT
Chevron has released its final report to the county on last summer's refinery fire in Richmond. And though it does not offer new insight into exactly why a pipe failed, sparking the massive blaze, it does outline some of the changes the company plans to make going forward.

The fire in August 2012 was the result of a hydrocarbon leak from corroded pipe. Though the company knew the pipe was cording as long ago as 2002, it did nothing to replace or repair it.

Chevron's seventh and final report, released Friday to Contra Costa Health Services, makes a number of recommendations for changes, including enhanced inspection, internal communications review, better training programs, and a new protocol for reacting to leaks.

"They have done what they've been asked to do," said Randy Sawyer with Contra Costa Health Services. "They've done a pretty thorough report. We'll work with their agencies to see if there's anything that might be missed that we might address."

The health department will also be hiring an independent third party to do an audit of the refinery's safety culture, management, and human error that contributed to the accident. Chevron will have to pay for it. And one year after it's completed, the consultant will return to make sure the promised changes are made.

"One of the things we all know, all pipe corrodes," County Supervisor John Gioia said. "The issue really is how Chevron makes appropriate decisions to replace the pipe before the corrosion causes a leak and that is a process issue, a decision making issue."

While the fire will lead to changes at the Richmond refinery, the U.S. Chemical Safety Board is pushing for change in how refineries are regulated across the nation.

"Instead of having federal, state, and local agencies with overlapping and distinct jurisdictions, how do we better have a framework that gets prevention as opposed to reaction as the basis for safety," Gioia said.

The Chemical Safety Board will release its interim report on Monday following a public meeting on that report in Richmond Monday evening, April 19.


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