Chevron initiates root cause analysis to determine cause of Richmond Refinery flaring incident

Chevron to allow public agency to oversee probe into flaring to ensure transparency
Photo of the Chevron Richmond Refinery flaring incident Dec. 18 was posted and shared on Twitter.

Chevron announced this week it has initiated a root cause analysis to determine what caused the flaring incident at the Richmond Refinery on Dec. 18 that alarmed residents.

A team of experts assembled by the company is in the early stages of the investigation, according a letter submitted to the Contra Costa Health Services Department hazardous materials director Randall Sawyer. The investigation team will also include representation from the United Steel Workers, the primary union representing workers at the refinery. The company has also pledged to share the results with local officials including Sawyer’s department, the Bay Air Quality Management District, City of Richmond and the public.

The root cause analysis is an in-depth response to community concerns about the incident and also a follow-up to the 72-hour report that Chevron submitted to the county on Friday (See the full report below).

The community was concerned the incident was a fire, but as the 72-hour report indicates, the unplanned flaring incident occurred as part of the refinery’s safety system that enabled the depressurizing and shutdown of its Solvent De-Asphalting (SDA) Unit. A loss of cooling in the unit initiated the safety flaring.

The root cause analysis will probe what happened in the SDA Unit that required that it be taken offline.

The report indicated no health impact to the community. The fence line and community air monitoring stations reported all the levels were below state and federal health limits.

Here’s the full 72-hour report: