Chevron reported Monday that the number of claims initiated in response to the Aug. 6 fire at the Richmond refinery stood at 23,900 as of Jan. 21 and that the company has paid out $10 million in compensation.
The fire in the Number 4 Crude Unit was caused by a corroded pipe and spewed a large cloud of smoke over neighboring communities. It prompted shelter-in-place warnings from Contra Costa County health officials for Richmond, North Richmond and San Pablo, shut down part of BART's Richmond line, and saw thousands of residents seek treatment at local hospitals with respiratory and other medical complaints related to the fire.
In a report to Contra Costa Health Services, Chevron noted that the investigation by the company and government agencies is still not complete but that Chevron is proceeding with "corrective actions" to inspect all pipes, make any needed repairs and improve emergency response. (The report is attached to this article.)
The $10 million in compensation paid so far has gone to "area hospitals, affected community members with valid claims, and local government agencies in Richmond and West Contra Costa County," the report said.
The number of claims represents an increase from a previous total of 21,200 reported by the company as of August 28.
A summary of the report by Chevron spokesman Sean Comey listed the following four areas of "comprehensive" corrective action that the company is undertaking:
- Addressing the susceptibility of carbon steel piping components with low-silicon content to accelerated corrosion when exposed to high temperature sulfidation (“HTS”) conditions.
- Strengthening reliability programs for piping and equipment, and enhancing competency requirements for leaders, inspectors and engineers;
- Strengthening leak response protocols and reinforcing the authority that everyone has to shut down equipment;
- Creating more management oversight and accountability for process safety and re-emphasizing focus on process safety.
The report also includes details of pollution monitor readings following the accident and the emergency response.
It also provided the following detailed account of how the fire broke out:
At or around 3:48 PM on August 6, 2012, an operator noticed a small leak from insulated piping on the C-1100 Atmospheric Distillation Column of the 4 Crude Unit. The operator immediately notified the Head operator and Supervisor for the unit and initiated a dialogue regarding next steps and how to isolate the leak.
The standard practice of the Chevron Fire Department (CFD) is to respond to leaks, spills, and releases. ln this instance, the CFD was notified at 4:02 PM that a leak had been discovered at the 4 Crude Unit. The CFD was asked to deploy a crew to the location as a precaution. The CFD arrived at the location between 4:07 PM and 4:09 PM and initiated air monitoring and assessment.
From 4:09 PM to 4:19 PM the rate of feed to the unit was reduced. Then, from 4:20 PM ta 6:24 PM, Operations personnel, in conjunction with the CFD, investigated and assessed options. While the leak was being assessed, the CFD set up an engine and had two hose teams in place, one directed at the potential source of the leak and one directed at the personnel assessing the leak. At approximately 6:22PM, a small flash fire occurred on the insulated piping going to P-1149/A. The CFD and Plant Operators activated water spray and extinguished the small flash fire. At some point shortly before 6:25 PM, the size of the release abruptly increased. Between 6:25 PM and 6:28 PM, the order was given to shut down the unit. Around this time a white cloud was visible. At or around 6:32 PM, the fire that is the subject of this report and ongoing investigation ignited.
At 6:38 PM, a Cornmunity Warning System Level 3 alert was initiated by Chevron U.S.A. lnc. and the CWS alarm sounded. At or around this tlmeframe, both Petro-Chem Mutual Aid and Municipal Mutual Aid were called in for support. This irncluded: Richmond Fire, El Cerrito Fire, Berkeley Fire, Contra Costa County Fire, Moraga/Orinda Fire, Hercules/Rodeo Fire, Phillips 66, Valero, Shell, Tesoro and Dow Fire. Also at or around this timeframe, a shelter-in-place order was issued for Richmond, San Pablo, and North Richmond. The shelter-in-place order advised residents to remain indoors until the fire was controlled. At 11:12 PM, the shelter-in-place order was lifted by CCHMP.