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Chevron submits technical analysis on piping material

on December 14, 2012

Chevron has submitted a technical analysis to move forward with the rebuilding of the No. 4 crude unit at the Richmond refinery, proposing to the use the nine-chrome alloy that has been reviewed skeptically by a federal agency, city officials and members of the public.

The 55-page report, submitted to the city’s planning division on Wednesday, says Chevron based its decision to use nine-chrome alloy on the “expert judgment” of its refinery materials engineer.

The report, prepared by Edwin H. Niccolls, a senior consulting materials engineer, with assistance from Barbara Smith, the refinery’s senior business manager, also directly addressed the skepticism about the choice of piping.

“While certain members of the public and the Chemical Safety Board have suggested 300-series stainless steel (“300 SS”) as an alternative material based on its increased resistance to sulfidation corrosion, the use of the 300 SS would introduce a new damage mechanism not present with nine-chrome alloy (9Cr) that is more difficult to monitor and inspect than sulfidation corrosion,” the report stated.

Once the planning division receives the report, City Manager Bill Lindsay said, he will forward it to the CSB and other agencies to get their input, while also consulting the city’s metallurgy consultant, Jim McLaughlin, and peer reviewer, David Hendrix.

At the City Council meeting on Dec. 4, Lindsay said he was expecting the technical analysis from Chevron to come soon.

At the meeting it was also announced by Mayor McLaughlin that the Chemical Safety Board would be pushing back its own proposed report to mid-January, from mid-December, as was previously planned.

In response, Lindsay said that he would not wait for the CSB to releasing its findings before issuing a permit to rebuild the piping in the No. 4 crude unit.

As of Dec. 7, more than 40 permits have been issued by the city to Chevron for the repair of the No. 4 crude unit and Cat Cooling Tower.

At the Dec. 4 meeting, Vice Mayor Jim Rogers and Councilmember Tom Butt asked for the public to be able to voice their opinion in a meeting with the City Manager, before the permits to replace the piping were approved.

“Since there is substantial community interest in it, it seems to me that it would be appropriate that there would be a hearing from the public prior to making the decision,” Rogers said.

Lindsay said after the meeting, and more recently, that he plans on going about with the process of bringing the issue up to the public. Butt said Thursday that he expects the public’s input to be heard as planned.

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