Richmond refinery update: ‘No health impact’ from flaring activity

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.

Updated statement from Chevron Richmond, published 3:50 p.m. Thursday:

We understand that the community has questions about the flaring activity which happened last night. We also recognize that the sight of flames coming from the flares caused alarm among our neighbors. While our operations team responded immediately to the situation, in an effort to ensure the community had more complete information we were more deliberate in our use of social media to communicate with our neighbors. We want to assure you that the use of flares, including last night’s activity, is an important part of keeping the refinery running safely. We also responded to inquiries from local media outlets to help ensure information was made available to the public.

Last night, during the course of our operations it became necessary to depressure a unit within the refinery, which created a very visible flare. In flaring conditions, it is normal practice to release quantities of water vapor (steam). This sometimes can take on the appearance of smoke. The unit was safely depressurized and successfully shut down. The refinery is now operating normally and will continue to supply the market with products.

We are working cooperatively with officials from the Contra Costa County, and we will be submitting a report to the County later today.

There has been 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. A full report from the air monitoring stations will be made available at


Original statement from Chevron Richmond posted Thursday morning, 8:30 a.m.:

There has been visible flaring from the Richmond refinery this evening. We understand that the community has been concerned about the flaring activity.

We had a process unit that needed to be depressurized, creating a visible flare. The flare is part of a safety system which enables us to safely shut down a unit. We are in the process of shutting down this unit now.
In flaring conditions, it is normal practice to release quantities of water vapor (steam) to assist with the flare quality. This can take on the appearance of smoke.
The flaring has now stopped. There may be intermittent flaring this evening as we continue to safely bring down the unit.

There has been no impact to the community.