Chevron fined for air pollution at Richmond refinery
By Kurtis Alexander, August 11, 2015 2:42 pm
Chevron has agreed to pay $146,000 in fines for spewing pollutants into the air at its refinery in Richmond, air quality regulators said Tuesday.
The penalty stems from 22 citations from the Bay Area Air Quality Management District mostly for discharging unhealthy levels of hydrogen sulfide and other harmful compounds through flaring, the process of burning off excess gas, common at industrial sites.
The refinery was also cited for excess carbon monoxide coming out of its furnace.
“Even though the incidents were minor and did not result in any significant impacts to people or the environment, we take these matters seriously, and have taken preventative measures to avoid similar situations from occurring in the future,” said Leah Casey, a spokeswoman for Chevron Corp., in an e-mail to The Chronicle.
The notices of violation were sent to Chevron between 2012 and 2014. The fines will support the air district’s enforcement work.
Repost from Bloomberg Business News [Editor: A local resident observed that the photo below was taken at the docks here in Benicia, California — home of Valero Benicia Refinery. The Bloomberg story says that the contaminated oil originated with Chevron and was stored at Plains All American in Martinez. But maybe there’s more to the story? Maybe Valero was an additional source or storage facility for the ship’s contents? My source says that the tanker Hellespont Protector has been seen about twice over the last few months, and is a new one around here. (Background on current efforts of the oil industry to overturn the 1975 U.S. crude-export ban.) – RS]
Contaminated Oil That No One Wants Is Heading to Asia
By Lynn Doan and Dan Murtaugh, April 26, 2015 4:00 PM PDT
One million barrels of oil. Enough to fill more than 60 Olympic-sized swimming pools. And there it sat in tanks outside San Francisco — for three years — despite crude prices that topped $100 a barrel.
This isn’t the prized “light, sweet” kind of crude that is pumped out of the ground in Texas, or even the thick, sticky stuff from Alberta’s tar sands. Rather, it’s what’s known as “orphaned oil” that is so contaminated with organic chlorides that it can corrode the insides of even the biggest refineries.
Now, it’s on the move — and guessing exactly where is turning into a sort of parlor game for some in the oil market. All that is known is that Chevron Corp., which flushed the oil from a pipeline in September 2012 and has seen its value drop by $50 million since then, is loading it onto two tankers bound for Asia.
“It’s really kind of a bizarre incident,” said Gordon Schremp, a senior fuels specialist at the California Energy Commission who was notified by industry representatives of the planned exports.
It’s a rare shipment, considering most crude is barred from leaving U.S. borders. It just so happens that an exemption has been in place since 1992 allowing limited amounts of California oil to leave the country.
The only reason exports don’t happen very often is because California’s refiners keep almost all the state’s oil for themselves.
The saga began on Sept. 17, 2012, when Chevron told shippers that its pipeline delivering California crude to San Francisco-area refiners was contaminated. Chevron ended up pushing an estimated 1 million barrels through the pipe to get rid of the chlorides.
And so the tainted oil sat in tanks at a Plains All American Pipeline LP terminal in Martinez until this month, when all the red tape, including getting an export license from the Commerce Department, was finally cut, Schremp said.
When the contamination was discovered, heavy crude from California’s San Joaquin Valley cost $97 a barrel. It’s now $46. The difference, multiplied by 1 million barrels, is more than $50 million. And that’s not counting the cost of storing the oil for more than two years, which could add millions more.
West Texas Intermediate futures, the benchmark for U.S. crude, rose 9 cents to $57.24 a barrel at 11:53 a.m. local time on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Prices dropped about 44 percent in the past year.
Kent Robertson, a spokesman for Chevron, declined to comment on the exports. Brad Leone and Meredith Hartley, spokesmen for Plains, didn’t respond to requests for comment.
Oil tanker Hellespont Protector, one of the two vessels chartered to carry the crude, was anchored in the San Francisco Bay on Friday, shipping data compiled by Bloomberg show. The other, Energy Champion, is headed for Qingdao, China, a place with no refineries. It may be a stopover, or it may not be headed to a refinery at all.
Schremp, who wasn’t told where the outcast barrels are headed, said they could be used as fuel for large ships or burned in a power plant.
If refiners know about the contamination ahead of time, they can blend in additives as a cure, but it’s an expensive solution that erodes the value of the crude, said David Hackett, president of energy consultant Stillwell Associates LLC in Irvine, California.
Wherever it lands, chances are it’ll be the first and last California oil that Asia sees for a while. California crude prices have been getting stronger and refiners across the Pacific have been flooded with supplies from much closer by.
Asked whether the rare cargoes are a bellwether for future exports of California oil, Schremp said, “It’s not like it makes perfect economic sense to move barrels that way into the world market — this was an export of circumstance.”
Richmond councilman: Don’t let industry dominate debate
Residents should demand clean air
By Eduardo Martinez, Open Forum, March 26, 2015
As host to one of the biggest petroleum refineries in California, Richmond needs its residents to remain vigilant. The Bay Area Air Quality Management District is considering new refinery regulations that would require Chevron to disclose and measure the toxic emissions of its Richmond refinery and reduce them if they rise above stipulated limits, as has often occurred in the past. The air district held public workshops last week in Richmond, Martinez, Benicia and San Francisco. I urge concerned citizens to submit additional comments to the district before its March 27 deadline.
We need citizens to stand up because Big Oil doesn’t give up. The oil industry is spending tens of millions of dollars to derail our state’s landmark climate-change law, AB32. And it’s using some of the same sneaky tactics that Chevron deployed against me when I ran for Richmond City Council. Telling the truth is too risky, I guess: The vast majority of Californians want clean air and a livable climate.
Chevron, the oil giant that ranks by assets as the 18th biggest company in the world according to Forbes, spent some $3 million on advertising against me and other candidates when we ran in November’s election.
Despite being outspent by 20 to 1, my team and I fought back with a grassroots campaign that showed how people power still can triumph over big money. And I can tell you, standing up to a bully feels good, especially when you win.
The industry’s battle plan was revealed in a slide deck prepared by its lobbying arm, the Western States Petroleum Association, which was leaked to Bloomberg BusinessWeek. Instead of engaging in open public debate about clean energy and climate progress, the association has created and funded front groups that appear to consist of ordinary people — who just happen to share the industry’s point of view.
Oil companies also invoked the bogeyman of higher taxes. “Stop the Hidden Gas Tax” proclaimed countless billboards, TV and radio ads for weeks before Jan. 1, 2015, the day transportation fuels came under the AB32 emissions cap.
There was no hidden tax. Nor has the industry’s broader claim — that AB32 would weaken California’s economy and drive away businesses — proved true. In fact, California’s economy has grown since AB32 began. We have the largest advanced energy industry in the United States, employing more than 430,000 workers, and the Golden State’s manufacturing sector leads the nation in total output. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics announced that California vaulted over Texas as the state with the largest job growth during the past year. All this growth — and our per capita carbon emissions have dropped 17 percent since 1990.
To be sure, this increased prosperity still hasn’t reached all Californians. But the solution is not to gut our clean air laws; it is to accelerate our development of renewable energy sources and improved energy efficiency — labor-intensive activities that employ more people than drilling for oil and gas.
We need to keep shining a light on the activities of opponents to clean energy.
As a resident and public official in Richmond, I care about petroleum use for another reason as well. In 2012, an explosion at Chevron’s Richmond refinery led some 15,000 people to seek hospital treatment. The refinery’s typical emissions also take a terrible toll, as I witnessed during my 18 years as an elementary school teacher. So many students were afflicted with asthma that our school founded an Asthma Club to help kids, teachers and parents cope. That should not be.
Californians deserve clean air, a stable climate and public policy that prioritizes those goals. We should strengthen, not weaken, AB32. Tell the air district that.
Eduardo Martinez serves on the Richmond City Council.