Category Archives: Chevron Refinery

KQED: Valero Benicia one of three Cal oil refineries shut down – gas prices up, Chevron flaring

Repost from KQED California Report

Valero Could Restart Troubled Benicia Refinery by Mid-May

By Ted Goldberg, Apr 15, 2019
The Valero refinery in Benicia. (Craig Miller/KQED)

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.

Monday’s price marks the first time the statewide average cost for a gallon of regular has topped $4 in close to five years, Blasky said.

He said that while other factors have played a part in the rise — for instance, an increase in the price of crude oil worldwide — the refinery issues have been a major contributing factor.

“I would hope, as refineries come back to their normal levels of production, that we start to see prices level out and hopefully start to come down by mid-May,” Blasky said.

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    California Gas Prices Expected to Spike in Wake of Shutdown at Valero’s Benicia Refinery

    Repost from KQED California Report

    By Ted Goldberg, Mar 26, 2019
    Valero’s Benicia refinery on March 24, 2019. (Solano County)

    California drivers — or the millions of them whose cars still run on refined petroleum — can expect to pay more to fill up their gas tanks in the coming days thanks to the partial shutdown of Valero’s Benicia refinery.

    The retail cost of a gallon of gasoline in the state is expected to rise immediately, according to David Hackett, president of Stillwater Associates, a transportation energy consulting company based in Irvine.

    That’s after a 12-cent spike in wholesale gas prices on Monday, Hackett said.

    “That price increase is likely to get passed through to motorists over the next week or so,” he said. “You’ll start seeing prices go up starting probably today.”

    The average cost of a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline in California is $3.51, 16 cents higher than a week ago, according to AAA.

    Several agencies are investigating a series of petroleum coke dust releases at the Benicia refinery that began more than two weeks ago. Those releases intensified on Sunday, prompting city officials to issue a health advisory.

    The Valero refinery’s flue gas scrubber malfunctioned, a problem that led to a sooty plume of petroleum coke to billow out of the facility’s smokestacks. To deal with the problem, the refinery is slowly shutting down a significant part of its operations.

    Last week, problems at two other California refineries contributed to the recent jump in gas prices.

    AAA says a fire at a crude processing unit at the Phillips 66 refinery in Los Angeles County and a series of flaring incidents at Chevron’s Richmond refinery drove prices higher.

    AAA spokesman Michael Blasky said price spikes are the norm when refineries suffer problems that lead to curtailed production.

    “When a refinery goes offline and supply drops, retailers incorporate price increases almost immediately in California,” Blasky said.

    Wholesale suppliers that sell fuel to gas stations and hear about the Benicia refinery’s shutdown will probably go into the so-called spot market to buy gas, sending the price up, Hackett said.

    The refinery problems come amid a jump in the price of crude oil over the last year, which has sent gas prices up nationally.

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      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.

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        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.

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