Category Archives: Flaring

KQED – Report on Valero shut down

Repost from KQED California Report

After Weeks of Issues, Valero’s Benicia Refinery to Temporarily Shut Down

By Ted Goldberg, Michelle Wiley,  Mar 24, 2019 11:30 a.m.
Problems began at the refinery on March 11 when a malfunction involving one of the refinery’s units led to the release of petroleum coke dust. (Sasha Khokha/KQED)

The Valero refinery is performing a controlled shutdown to “improve conditions and minimize risk,” according to a statement from Benicia city officials. The shutdown could last multiple days and result in visible flaring.

Earlier Sunday, city officials issued an advisory notice for residents with respiratory issues to stay inside after a two-week-old problem at the Valero refinery worsened.

But now that the refinery is shutting down, city officials and Solano County health officer Bela Matyas says the air quality is safe for residents.

The problem the Valero refinery began on March 11 when a malfunction involving one of the refinery’s units led to the release of petroleum coke dust.

A Valero representative said then that refinery’s flue gas scrubber was “experiencing operational issues.”

The releases prompted local air regulators to issue seven notices of violation against the refinery. 

Those problems eased after a few days but continued intermittently, air district officials said.

On Saturday several Benicia residents posted comments on the social media site, Nextdoor, expressing concerns about what appeared to be more black smoke coming from Valero’s stacks.

On Sunday, the particulate matter in the air increased.

“The concentration of particulate matter has become significantly higher over the past day. The emissions contain coke, a by-product of the refining process that is made up primarily of carbon particles,” the city’s statement says.

Benicia officials said testing of the coke dust released so far did not show heavy metals at harmful levels but warned that breathing in air from the releases could worsen underlying respiratory conditions like asthma.

“Inspectors are on scene working with the facility and with Solano County and making a determination if additional violations will be coming,” said Lisa Fasano, a spokeswoman with the Bay Area Air Quality Management District.

The Air District also deployed a monitoring van to drive throughout Benicia to “gather ground level emissions data.”

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    Valero emissions alerts – personal update with photos from Marilyn Bardet

    An email from Marilyn Bardet, Benicia

    From: Marilyn Bardet
    Subject: About Solano ALERT notice: Valero’s Scrubber releasing toxic particulate matter–pet coke
    Date: March 24, 2019 at 8:16:22 AM PDT

    Good morning all,

    I just received both a phone call and email from Solano ALERT at 6:59 a.m. regarding the ongoing problem at the refinery that’s resulting in continuous release of PM from the Scrubber, (main stack). I see emails circulating now among Benicians— and so you’ve all probably rec’d the advisory by now to “stay indoors, with doors and windows sealed, if you have asthma or other respiratory condition”. The advisory declares that they’ve tested the pet coke emissions and did not find (dangerous levels) of heavy metals. (Which is not to say there are no heavy metals being dispersed over the last ten days).

    My concern:
    This problem has been happening since at least March 13th, when I first saw the plume, having been alerted by a friend who had called to report its smokey color.  That day, following her phone call, I drove along  Park Road and Industrial Way (east of the refinery’s processing block) to see it for myself and take pictures.

    The release of dark smoke from the Scrubber signals an “up stream” on-going problem with the coker unit. My question: is the coker still operating or has it been shut down? If it’s not operating, when was the unit shut down?

    Yesterday, I was driving over the Benicia Bridge toward town and saw the plume and again noticed the smokey color, so went directly to Industrial Way to take pictures. I made a 1 minute video, holding my camera outside my car window to get it. This meant that I could see and smell the smoke— a very dirty, nasty smell. Anyone working in the Industrial Park yesterday downwind of the Scrubber  would have been greatly exposed.  I could smell the gases inside my car when I rolled up the window.

    You’ll notice that in the still shots from yesterday, the plume rises, drifts and falls. . . the wind was light, the molecules heavy!

    I can’t send the video via email, because the file is too large, but Constance will be able to circulate it.

    I want to know about the test for heavy metals and which ones they did find and in what concentrations. Was there any nickel found? Nickel is a known carcinogen when inhaled.

    All it would take would be a shift in the wind to bring the PM into our neighborhoods.

    — Marilyn

    The following pictures I took on March 13th,  between 11:33 a.m. and 11:35 a.m (click to enlarge):

    The following pictures I took on March 23, at 2:21 pm
    (click to enlarge):

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      KQED: Coverage of Valero Benicia Refinery emergency releases

      Repost from KQED California Report

      Problems at Valero’s Benicia Refinery Increase, Prompt Health Advisory

      By Ted Goldberg, Mar 24, 2019, updated at 10:05am
      Problems began at the refinery on March 11 when a malfunction involving one of the refinery’s units led to the release of petroleum coke dust. (Sasha Khokha/KQED)

      Benicia city officials are urging residents with respiratory issues to stay inside because a two week old problem at the Valero refinery has intensified.

      “Go inside your home, workplace, or the nearest building that appears to be reasonably airtight and stay there,” reads an advisory sent out by the city of Benicia Sunday morning.

      The problem began on March 11 when a malfunction involving one of the refinery’s units led to the release of petroleum coke dust.

      A Valero representative said then that refinery’s flue gas scrubber was “experiencing operational issues.”

      The releases prompted local air regulators to issue seven notices of violation against the refinery. 

      Those problems eased after a few days but continued intermittently, air district officials said.

      On Saturday several Benicia residents posted comments on the social media site, Nextdoor, expressing concerns about what appeared to be more black smoke coming from Valero’s stacks.

      On Sunday that intensified.

      “(The) City of Benicia has issued (an) advisory notice for all residents with respiratory issues due to particulate matter from an ongoing incident at the Valero Benicia Refinery,” the city’s statement reads.

      City officials are telling local residents with weakened respiratory systems to close all doors, windows and fireplace dampers, urging them to put tape or damp towels around doors and windows to seal them.

      The advisory also recommends that healthy people limit their outdoor activity.

      “The concentration of particulate matter has become significantly higher over the past day. The emissions contain coke, a by-product of the refining process that is made up primarily of carbon particles,” the city’s statement says.

      Benicia officials said testing of the coke dust released so far did not show heavy metals at harmful levels but warned that breathing in air from the releases could worsen underlying respiratory conditions like asthma.

      In a statement, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District said inspectors are at the refinery investigating the cause of this heavy smoke. The Air District also deployed a monitoring van to drive throughout Benicia to “gather ground level emissions data.”

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