Council receives report and recommendation from staff, will discuss and vote on Tues April 16
The agenda for the Benicia City Council meeting of Tuesday, April 16 was distributed to the public today.
A very important issue will be under consideration: the much-needed update to the City’s Emergency Operations Plan (EOP), complete with an emergency evacuation plan and plans for mass care and shelter.
The staff report gives a very brief overview and details the process by which the update was developed. At the end of the report are these very important links to the heart of the EOP:
Valero Could Restart Troubled Benicia Refinery by Mid-May
By Ted Goldberg, Apr 15, 2019
Valero’s Benicia refinery, shut down since last month because of equipment malfunctions, could be back online by mid-May, Benicia city officials and state regulators say.
Although the company won’t provide a date that it plans to restart the Solano County facility, Benicia Fire Chief Josh Chadwick said Monday he estimates the refinery will be back online in the next three to four weeks.
Chadwick said a Solano County hazardous materials specialist assigned to Valero provided him with the estimated timetable. County officials did make the specialist available for comment.
The California Energy Commission said Monday that the Benicia refinery is one of three California crude oil processing facilities that the agency expects to be restarted over the next several weeks. Shutdowns at the refineries — including two in the Los Angeles area — have helped drive up the cost of gasoline statewide.
Valero powered down its Benicia facility on March 24 after failing to resolve malfunctions that led to the release of soot-laden smoke.
The incident prompted Solano County to issue a health advisory for people with respiratory issues to stay indoors.
A Valero representative said the company will not disclose its restart date.
“I know we shared information about the status of the refinery on March 24, but beyond that, it is Valero’s policy to not comment on operations or possible outages/restarts at its facilities beyond what is publicly reported,” said Lillian Riojas, a company spokeswoman.
The California Energy Commission has been in touch with Valero but does not release certain data about its operations due to regulatory restrictions, according to agency spokeswoman Sandy Louey.
But Louey said refinery issues that have played a part in recent gas price increases — including the Valero shutdown — would be coming to an end in the coming weeks.
“The Energy Commission can say that the three large refinery maintenance issues are scheduled to be resolved over a period beginning late April through the middle of May,” she said in an email.
Besides Valero, the facilities involve two in the Los Angeles suburb of Carson: a Phillips 66 refinery that suffered a fire and a Marathon Oil refinery that’s been down for planned maintenance.
The statewide average cost of a gallon of regular has increased 62 cents since Valero’s March 24 shutdown, according to AAA. It now stands at $4.006.
“We’ve had major refinery issues all spring,” said AAA Northern California spokesman Michael Blasky. “I’ve heard it referred to as a perfect storm in the industry, with a lot of refinery incidents of flaring or shutting down for days or weeks at time.”
In fact, Chevron’s Richmond refinery experienced its seventh flaring incident of the year on Saturday, according to Contra Costa County’s chief environmental and hazardous materials officer, Randy Sawyer. The incident caught the attention of the Oil Price Information Service.
Refinery issues mount as California retail gas price average cross $4/gal: Chevron Richmond reported “significant flaring” Saturday; Air Products L.A. hydrogen plant (which supplies area refineries with supplemental hydrogen) reported flaring due to a unit breakdown late Sunday. pic.twitter.com/5PNWPgNOrZ
Repost from KQED News [Editor: Significant quote: “The risk of these tiny particles getting into people’s lungs is yet another example of the dangers of living near a dirty refinery,” said Hollin Kretzmann, a staff attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Communities should not have to be afraid of breathing in pollution that could affect their health.” – R.S.]
Air District Hits Valero With Violations Over Benicia Refinery Releases
By Ted Goldberg, Mar 15, 2019
Local air regulators have issued seven notices of violation against the Valero Energy Corp. over a malfunction at its Benicia refinery that has led to the release of petroleum coke dust from the facility since Monday.
The problem has led to a response by four agencies: the Bay Area Air Quality Management District and Solano County health officials have launched investigations into the releases; the U.S. Environmental Protection Administration and the Benicia Fire Department are monitoring the situation.
It’s unclear how long the problem will last.
“Valero is telling us they are unable to give an estimate of when it will be resolved,” said Benicia Fire Chief Josh Chadwick.
A Valero representative says the malfunction is tied to a device that removes particulates during a process that takes place inside the refinery.
“We have been experiencing operational issues with the flue gas scrubber,” said company spokeswoman Lillian Riojas.
That led to so-called coke fines — very small carbon particulates that are a byproduct of the oil refining process — being released from the refinery’s flare stacks.
Normally, warm water vapor moves through the refinery’s towers and exits the stacks as steam, but the petcoke particulates make the plume appear dark and sooty.
“The fines remained in the raw exhaust gas,” said Professor Eric Smith, associate director of the Tulane Energy Institute, specializing in refinery operations.
“The dark smoke will continue until all of the fines in the lines leading to the exhaust stack have been cleared from the system,” Smith said.
While the material is not hazardous, the releases could include trace amounts of heavy metals, according to Terry Schmidtbauer, Solano County’s assistant director of resource management.
Valero’s Riojas did not respond to follow-up questions about the status of the scrubber that led to this week’s releases, but Benicia Fire’s Chadwick said Friday that “the maintenance issue has been resolved.”
So far, air tests have not raised concerns among the agencies monitoring the site. Crews have not detected high levels of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide or particulate matter, according to Chadwick.
And Schmidtbauer says the situation is slowly improving — the amount of coke dust coming from the facility has been lessening.
Nevertheless, the air district has issued four notices of violation against Valero for visible emissions and three for public nuisance, agency spokesman Ralph Borrmann said.
The U.S. EPA says significant quantities of dust from pet coke can present a health risk.
“The risk of these tiny particles getting into people’s lungs is yet another example of the dangers of living near a dirty refinery,” said Hollin Kretzmann, a staff attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Communities should not have to be afraid of breathing in pollution that could affect their health.”
The problem represents one of the more extensive malfunctions at the refinery since it lost all power on May 5, 2017, an event that led to a major release of pollution, shelter-in-place and evacuation orders.