Who and what is East of the Benicia Port? Where is toxic ash falling to ground?
— Ted Goldberg (@TedrickG) April 9, 2022
What follows is my rough transcription of most of Benicia Fire Chief Josh Chadwick’s statement to the press on April 9, 2022 concerning the 4-alarm fire at the Port of Benicia. (Taken from audio that is difficult at best.) – R.S.
>> Chief Chadwick reported that the fire started in a small outbuilding at the base of the petcoke silos. The conveyor belt that goes from there up toward where the ships are loaded was catching fire. At first the Fire Department thought they had a petcoke fire.
The fire at the base of the silo was quickly extinguished, but the crews had a difficult time accessing the conveyor belt system. It’s large rubber tracks were on fire all the way to the top.
The fire dropped from the top of the conveyor belt and ultimately caught the pier on fire. The pier is large with a blacktop road surface, and underneath it are large timbers that have been soaked in creosote. When those start burning, they are very difficult to access and extinguish, and they were the main part of the fire during this incident. We requested 4 fire boats, as they are the only real access to these creosote logs beneath the pier.
Our biggest concern was the unlikely possibility of a shift in wind direction. Light winds have continued to move from the west, blowing the smoke out onto the Strait.
The other concern would be hazardous materials. Obviously there’s a lot of chemicals in that wood, and everything else on that pier that would’ve made its way into the water, and we are working closely with Fish and Wildlife and US Coast Guard on that issue….
We have also been in contact with AMPORTS and Valero Refinery…
(in response to press questions…)
We had a very similar pier fire early on in my career, and it burned for a couple of days…
That pier is used for offloading oil from ships, loading petcoke onto ships, and offloading cars…
It will likely be 24 to 48 hours before the fire is completely extinguished.
Hazardous materials have burned. Petcoke is considered a hazardous material. I do not know if any of it burned, but my understanding is that the large volume of it in the silos is not currently on fire, so if it did, it was a small amount at the base. On the pier itself, there are numerous hazardous materials: there are tanks of gasoline, tanks of diesel that we can’t get to because there’s fire underneath it. That has the potential to burn, but for the most part, what’s been burning is the timber that has been soaked in creosote, and that also is hazardous. When it burns it emits hazardous smoke. …yes there are a few small tanks on top…
I’m not a hazardous materials expert, but if you know what railroad ties are,…it’s like a black oil that they have used for many years to keep lumber from rotting if it’s in the ground or water.
QUESTION about the impact of these chemicals on the environment and the ocean if some of that petcoke did burn, and these other products…
My primary concern is with the impact to our citizens in their air, and right now 100% due to favorable wind conditions, we haven’t had that issue. And the same with my fire crews on the scene – they have not been impacted by that. As far as what it does to the environment, that would be more a question for the Bay Area Air Quality District.
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:
1. Resolution [this is just the wheras’s and therefores…]
2. EOP Volume I – Basic Plan – https://tinyurl.com/y5o85k8b
3. EOP Volume II – Emergency Operations Center Guidance – https://tinyurl.com/y4fhyk3l
a. Dam Failure – https://tinyurl.com/yyuauq2e
b. Evacuation – https://tinyurl.com/yxfg3gwv
c. Mass Care & Shelter – https://tinyurl.com/y69axyqt
d. Public Information – https://tinyurl.com/yxqyuayd
All of these documents are searchable. You might find it interesting, for instance, to search each of them on the word “refinery” or “smoke.”
Repost from KQED California Report
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
— OPIS West Coast and Carbon (@OPIS_WestCoast) April 15, 2019
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.