Draft EIR for Chevron Richmond’s refinery modernization project released

Update regarding flaring activity at the Chevron Richmond Refinery
Photo of the Chevron Richmond Refinery

The much-anticipated draft environmental impact report (EIR) for the Chevron Richmond refinery’s billion-dollar modernization project was released Tuesday morning.

The analysis details the company’s plans to replace aging processing units at the century-old refinery, which produces much of the West Coast’s transportation fuel and lubricants.

The environmental review is “truly a demonstration of transparency,” said Nicole Barber, a spokesperson for the refinery.

“This is one of the most robust environmental impact reports ever produced for a refinery project,” Barber said. “The report includes a significant volume of data to support the findings outlined in it.”

Chevron Richmond on Tuesday released the draft EIR for the refinery’s billion-dollar modernization project. An info graphic explains.In 2009, a judge rejected the city’s EIR for a separate, more ambitious refinery project on the grounds that the report failed to disclose whether the plan would allow for the processing of heavier crude oil, which has the potential to increase emissions.

The EIR released Tuesday offers more details on a scaled-down project, Barber said, including specifics about the types of crudes processed at the facility. While the project will enhance the refinery’s ability to process crudes with higher sulfur content, it will not change its capacity to process crude blends in the intermediate-light range.

Chevron Richmond's draft environmental impact report has been released for review, and here is a schedule of related meetings upcoming.The project is a modernization effort, Barber added, not an expansion. It won’t change the amount of processed crude oil from the current 250,000 barrels per day.

One of the two primary components of the project includes replacing a hydrogen plant operating on 1960s-era technology with a more modern and energy-efficient version. The second component would enhance the refinery’s sulfur recovery units.

The project is a win-win for Chevron and the community, Barber said, as it will make the refinery safer and more competitive while resulting in no net emissions.

The project will add to the safety enhancements that have been installed since the August 2012 fire that broke out in a crude oil unit. More corrosion-resistant piping will be added to the plant, among other safety features, as a result of modernization.

“We learned a lot from the incident August 2012,” Barber said. “The EIR includes a comprehensive public safety chapter. It looks at the impact of bringing in higher sulfur material on the entire refinery.”

The project is expected to create 1,000 local union construction jobs. It would also create an additional 1,300 jobs in surrounding communities and generate $200 million in economic activity in Richmond and West Contra Costa County, according to an impact study by Beacon Economics.

Opponents have said the modernization project will result in the processing of “dirtier” crudes that will increase pollution. Chevron Richmond officials said the EIR will prove them wrong.  In addition to Chevron Richmond’s commitment to no net increase in emissions, Barber said, the project will set aside $30 million over 10 years to help Richmond and North Richmond reduce greenhouse gases.

Councilman Tom Butt, who has been a refinery critic in the past, said Tuesday he is withholding comment until he’s reviewed the EIR.

Residents can view the draft EIR at chevronmodernization.com.