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City officials approve permits for Richmond refinery repairs

on December 26, 2012

Days after a public meeting was held to discuss the repairing of piping, city staff gave the go-ahead for the approval of permits that allow for repairs on the No. 4 Crude Unit at Chevron’s Richmond refinery.

Last Wednesday, City Manager Bill Lindsay held a public hearing to discuss the city’s approval of piping at the Chevron refinery in Richmond to replace the pipes that failed during the Aug. 6 fire. Approximately 150 people attended. Public speakers voiced their skepticism of Chevron’s efforts and the overall safety of the refinery, while others spoke of their faith in the rebuild.

Following the meeting, Lindsay said he was not ready to issue permits until receiving more information from the city’s hired experts. On Friday, the city’s metallurgical consultants, James McLaughlin and David Hendrix, responded to Lindsay’s additional questions regarding the best kind of piping to use to repair the crude unit.

McLaughlin reaffirmed his comments from previous correspondence, as well as his presentation at last week’s meeting, writing that the nine-chrome alloy (9Cr) piping was the best piping material to choose, over the alternative, 300-series stainless steel. McLaughlin did acknowledge that the 300-series steel is more resistant to corrosion than the nine-chrome, but that it is susceptible to cracking, a problem which McLaughlin said can’t be “effectively monitored and mitigated by an inspection program.”

“It is my opinion that 9Cr provides an ‘inherently safer design’ than alternative materials for the replacement piping in the No. 4 Crude Unit,” McLaughlin wrote.

Hendrix echoed McLaughlin’s sentiments in his letter to Lindsay by stressing that choosing nine-chrome alloy was a better choice than the 300-series stainless steel alternative.

Both Hendrix and McLaughlin emphasized that in addition to the choice of piping, a proper inspection program is key in maintaining safety at the refinery.

After receiving their letters, Lindsay sent an email to the mayor and city councilmembers summarizing the information from the consultants, and that staff recommended the permits be approved.

According to Lindsay’s email, the letters from McLaughlin and Hendrix took into account: two subpoenas from the U.S. Chemical Safety Board which requested that Chevron provide documents, correspondence and other records on the Richmond refinery and other Chevron refineries, Chevron’s response to the subpoena questions relating to replacing the high-temperature sulfidation (HTS) piping, and any other documents provided to the city from Chevron.

To view the letters from the metallurgical experts, the report from Chevron or any additional information, please visit the city’s Chevron Refinery Fire informational page.

1 Comment

  1. Ormond Otvos on December 26, 2012 at 11:44 pm

    Do it right. Demand that Chevron post its inspection reports within 72 hours on a publicly accessible website, including photographs and videos of the inspection procedures. It isn’t difficult, everyone posts cellphone pictures of everything, and the cameras are very good!

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