Category Archives: Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD)

This is where air quality was the worst in the Bay Area in 2018

Repost from SF Gate

This is where air quality was the worst in the Bay Area in 2018

By Drew Costley, March 13, 2019 12:30 pm PDT

FILE – The San Francisco skyline shrouded in smoke on in this file photo from Nov. 16, 2018, a day when the air quality reached purple on the Air Quality Index (AQI).Click or swipe through the slideshow to see where the best and worst air quality was in the Bay Area in 2018.  Photo: Russell Yip / The Chronicle
IMAGE 1 OF 14 – FILE – The San Francisco skyline shrouded in smoke on in this file photo from Nov. 16, 2018, a day when the air quality reached purple on the Air Quality Index (AQI). | Photo: Russell Yip / The Chronicle  … more

Residents of San Francisco experienced the worst air quality in the city’s recorded history in 2018 because the historic Camp Fire in Butte County. The rest of the region was choking on smoke from the wildfire, too. At one point in November 2018, Northern California had the worst air quality in the world.

During the Camp Fire, Vallejo residents experienced the worst air quality of the year on November 16, the eighth day of the fire, according to the measurements taken by the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD). On that same day, several other Bay Area spots also recorded their worst air quality of the year.

READ MORE: San Francisco AQI jumps to 271, worst air quality ever recorded in the city

“A few really big events can really affect the air quality in the Bay Area,” Charley Knoderer, meteorology manager for the BAAQMD, said. He added that the frequency and intensity of wildfires in Northern California in recent years is “highly unusual and causes a lot of problems.”

Kristine Roselius, communications manager for the BAAQMD, said that climate change is “supercharging and exacerbating” wildfires in the region. “We’ve got more extreme weather and more extreme weather is causing more catastrophic wildfires that are larger in scale, that are harder to put out, and they put out a lot of smoke.”

This chart shows the number of times the Bay Area has exceeded the federal standard for PM2.5 (particulate matter) since 2000. Although overall air quality is getting better due regulations, wildfire smoke is contributing to the number of days that a federal exceedance occurs in a given year. Photo: Courtesy Of The Bay Area Air Quality Management District
This chart shows the number of times the Bay Area has exceeded the federal standard for PM2.5 (particulate matter) since 2000. Although overall air quality is getting better due regulations, wildfire smoke is contributing to the number of days that a federal exceedance occurs in a given year. Photo: Courtesy Of The Bay Area Air Quality Management District

Outside of the historically bad air quality of November 2018, where in the Bay Area do we find the worst air quality? SFGATE averaged the highest recorded Air Quality Index (AQI) ratings to start to get an idea of where it was the worst.

Click through the slideshow at the top of this story to see where air quality was best and worst in 2018.

The AQI is a combination of air quality measures – carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, ozone, particulate matter and sulfur dioxide – taken by the BAAQMD.

Knoderer said traffic congestion is the largest contributor to poor ambient air quality. The amount of traffic in West Oakland and near Laney College, along with action along the Port of Oakland, make the air quality in the area so poor.

Ambient is a key distinction from the moments, like during a wildfire, when there’s unusually poor air quality. Knoderer pointed out that if it hadn’t been for the smoke from the Camp Fire, the Bay Area would not have had any days that exceeded federal standards for the level of particulate matter in the air last year.

ALSO: N95, P100: What do all these mask numbers mean and how do I know it’s keeping me safe?

“We generally have two seasons that affect air pollution differently,” Koderer said. “You have summer, when ozone is the primary pollutant, primarily from cars. And then you have the winter, which is primarily particulate matter or PM2.5, and that’s more local forces like fireplaces.”

Roselius added, “Wood fires are the number one source of winter time air pollution.”

This chart shows the number of days the the Bay Area has exceeded the state and national standards for ozone since 1974. Photo: Courtesy Of The Bay Area Air Quality Management District
This chart shows the number of days the the Bay Area has exceeded the state and national standards for ozone since 1974.  Photo: Courtesy Of The Bay Area Air Quality Management District

The good news is that most of the monitoring stations in the Bay Area had monthly averages of particulate matter – different from the average of all of the monthly AQI highs – that were all under the federal health standard of 35 micrograms per cubic meter per day.

Two of the three monitoring sites with the highest monthly averages in 2018 were in Oakland, at Laney College and West Oakland. The other was on Owens Court in Pleasanton. All three sites averaged 14.4 micrograms per cubic meter per day last year.

    Complaints Over Latest Flaring Event At Chevron Richmond Refinery

    Repost from KPIX5 CBS SF Bay Area

    Complaints Over Latest Flaring Event At Chevron Richmond Refinery

    March 18, 2019 at 1:26 pm
    Image result for chevron richmond refinery
    Chevron Richmond Refinery

    RICHMOND (CBS SF) – Four members of the public filed complaints with the Bay Area Air Quality Management District over flaring observed at the Chevron Richmond Refinery over the weekend.

    The air district sent inspectors to the scene Sunday, and they are continuing to investigate the flaring, which Chevron said was caused by an upset in a process unit.

    District spokeswoman Kristine Roselius said that so far, no notices of violation have been issued with regard to the incident, but detailed information about what chemicals were released into the air and why may not be available for months.

    Roselius referred to flares as a safety device, burning very hot to protect public health by pushing the emissions high into the atmosphere to minimize their effect on nearby communities.

    In a statement issued Sunday by Chevron spokesman Braden Reddall, the oil giant reassured neighbors that there was no environmental or health risk, and that flares are used to “relieve pressure during the refining processes.”

    Members of the community interested in monitoring air quality around the refinery can do so at www.fenceline.org/richmond.

    Sunday’s flaring is just the latest in a string of such occurrences, with eight flaring events reported in 2018 as well as incidents in January and February of this year. The latest reports of flaring

    Air district officials have said each one is under investigation, but that in most of the 2018 incidents, the flares were burning off hydrogen, which burns very clean.

      Chevron’s Richmond Refinery Flaring Incidents at Highest Level in More Than a Decade

      Repost from KQED News
      [Editor: Southwest winds bring the Richmond refinery’s pollution right over Benicia.  – R.S.]

      Chevron’s Richmond Refinery Flaring Incidents at Highest Level in More Than a Decade

      By Ted Goldberg, Mar 18, 2019
      Flaring at Chevron’s Richmond refinery seen on March 17, 2019. (Courtesy of Brian Krans)

      The number of flaring incidents in 2018 at Chevron’s Richmond refinery was at its highest level in 12 years, according to data the Bay Area Air Quality Management District released Monday at a board of directors committee meeting.

      The refinery experienced nine flaring events last year, more than any other refinery in the Bay Area. That’s the highest number of such incidents since 2006, when the Chevron refinery experienced 21 flaring events.

      The Tesoro refinery in Pacheco experienced five flaring incidents last year, Valero’s Benicia refinery conducted four, Shell in Martinez had three and Phillips 66 in Rodeo had two, according to the air district.

      The jump, which started in the last eight months, is connected to the start up of a new hydrogen plant that recently began operating at the facility, according to John Gioia, who represents the area of the refinery on the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors and sits on the air district’s board of directors.

      “All the sudden we saw this spike,” Gioia said in an interview. “There are some issues related to the new hydrogen plant and how it is integrated with the existing refinery.”

      Gioia said it will probably take several months for Chevron to make fixes at the plant to reduce future flaring operations.

      “For those of us who live in Richmond, we may continue to see some additional flaring while these issues are resolved,” he said.

      Air regulators and oil industry officials emphasize that flares are used as safety devices to reduce pressure inside refineries by burning off gases during facility malfunctions as well as start up and shutdown operations.

      Chevron’s hydrogen plant is part of the refinery’s modernization project, approved by the Richmond City Council in 2014, that is aimed at helping the facility refine higher-sulfur crude oil.

      Braden Reddall, a company spokesman, said late Monday that the refinery was flaring “due to startup activities at a processing unit.”

      “The flaring does not pose any environmental or health risk to the community,” Reddall said in an email.

      “We want to assure our neighbors that flares are highly regulated safety devices, designed to relieve pressure during the refining processes and help keep our equipment and plants operating safety,” he said, adding that the refinery continues to supply its customers.

      But Reddall did not answer questions about the connection between the hydrogen plant and the refinery’s recent uptick in flaring incidents as well as what kind of fixes the company is putting in place.

      Gioia said the refinery began using the hydrogen unit last fall.

      In the first three months of 2019, there have been five malfunctions at Chevron, the most recent one on Sunday afternoon, according to Randy Sawyer, Contra Costa County’s chief environmental health and hazardous materials officer.

      That incident sent black smoke into the air and lasted two-and-a-half hours, Sawyer said.

      It came 11 days after the refinery suffered an outage that caused several processing units at the facility to shut down, prompting the facility to send gas through its flares.

      The refinery also suffered outages on Feb. 2 and Jan. 17 and conducted a separate flaring operation on Feb. 24.

      The air district is investigating most of those incidents, according to agency spokeswoman Kristine Roselius.

      “We don’t think this is an acceptable situation,” said Jack Broadbent, chief executive officer of the air district, during Monday’s meeting before the district’s Stationary Source Committee.

      Gioia said a significant portion of the gas coming from the refinery’s flares during the recent incidents has been pure hydrogen, which does not present the same health risk as other gases like sulfur dioxide and benzene, which tend to get released during other flaring operations.