Investigators probe pipe leak in US Chevron refinery fire

12 August 2012 17:29  [Source: ICIS news]

HOUSTON (ICIS)--The US Chemical Safety Board (CSB) said it is looking into the reasons behind a pipe leak which led to a fire last week at Chevron’s 240,000 bbl/day oil refinery in Richmond, California.

The 6 August fire occurred when gas oil leaked from an eight-inch pipe connected to a crude oil distillation tower in the refinery’s crude unit, the CSB said on Saturday.

Workers noted the leak and were attempting repairs on piping connected to the still-operating crude oil distillation tower when the leak suddenly intensified, the CSB said.

The gas oil formed a large flammable vapour cloud, the safety board said.

“Witness testimony collected by CSB investigators indicates that a large number of workers were engulfed in the vapour cloud,” said CSB team lead Dan Tillema. “These workers might have been killed or severely injured, had they not escaped the cloud as the release rate escalated and the cloud ignited, shortly thereafter.”

Tillema said investigators were working to understanding why the pipe that later failed was kept in service during a late 2011 maintenance turnaround and what procedures and industry practices exist for responding to a leak of combustible material from a running unit.

CSB chairperson Rafael Moure-Eraso said: “Although fortunately no workers were killed, the overall impact of the incident ranks it as among the most serious US refinery incidents in recent years.”

Chevron shut down the 4 Crude Unit following the fire but other parts of the refinery continued to operate.

By: Brian Ford
+1 713 525 2653

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