Chevron Releases Internal Investigation on Refinery Fire

By Laura Dixon
|  Friday, Apr 12, 2013  |  Updated 8:28 PM PDT
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A massive fire spotted as far as six miles from the site began raging Monday evening at at one of the processing units at the Chevron refinery in Richmond.

A massive fire spotted as far as six miles from the site began raging Monday evening at at one of the processing units at the Chevron refinery in Richmond.

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Corrosion that damaged a steel pipe led to a disastrous fire at  Chevron's Richmond refinery last August, oil company officials confirmed in a  report released Friday.

The investigation report was submitted to Contra Costa Health  Services today on the Aug. 6 refinery fire that sent a toxic plume of smoke  into the air and some 15,000 people to hospitals complaining of breathing  problems.

In the report, Chevron representatives say that damage to the  crude oil pipe was not appropriately documented after inspections in 2002 and  2011.

The oil giant's report, based on findings from Chevron technical  experts and members of the United Steelworkers Union, also lays out a list of  corrective actions to prevent future leaks from occurring and to improve  safety procedures.

"We have identified what went wrong and are taking steps to  prevent a similar incident in the future," Nigel Hearne, the refinery's  general manager, said in a statement.

"The causes of the incident were multi-faceted. The refinery's  management and our entire workforce are implementing actions to address the  issues underlying the August incident and as part of our commitment to  continuous improvement," Hearne said.

The report's conclusions echo some of the findings of prior  investigations into the refinery fire conducted by the California Division of  Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) and the U.S. Chemical Safety and  Hazard Investigation Board, or CSB.

A report issued by the federal and state agencies in February  stated that severe corrosion was found on the pipe that leaked oil, sparking  the catastrophic fire last August.

Last week, representatives from Cal/OSHA and the CSB attended a  legislative hearing in Richmond during which Contra Costa County officials  said they plan to conduct an extensive audit of the refinery.

The CSB will hold a public meeting in Richmond next Friday to  release findings from its ongoing investigation into the refinery fire and  safety recommendations.

In January, Cal/OSHA fined Chevron $963,200, the agency's largest  fine and the maximum legally allowed, for 25 alleged worker safety violations  that occurred before, during and after the pipeline rupture.

Chevron has said it will appeal some of the citations.

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