Category Archives: Martinez CA

Another flaring incident at troubled Martinez Refining Company; strong odor felt for miles (again)

[Note from BenIndy: On Tuesday, December 19, at 6pm, Benicia City Council will be considering taking the second step in a two-step process that would direct staff to examine bringing an Industrial Safety Ordinance to Benicia. Benicia residents have long wished for the same standards, mechanisms, and systems of care afforded to Martinez through Contra Costa’s Industrial Safety Ordinance –standards, mechanisms, and systems that at least appear to generate genuine accountability and transparency when incidents like this occur. After allegations of decades of deceit (or ignorant noncompliance, if we’re being generous) from Valero’s Benicia Refinery and its ongoing failure to meet essential air quality standards, Benicia’s community has issued a vote of no-confidence in a mostly toothless Cooperation Agreement between the City and Valero, and Valero’s capability or willingness to be proactive and truthful about its ongoing violations and incidents . . . and with it, the community has issued a vote of very-little-confidence in regulatory bodies that are tasked with enforcing compliance with important standards that aim to protect the public’s health and safety. The community has asked Benicia City Council to accept the burden of trust that may have been misplaced in this so-called Cooperation Agreement and the refinery, its parent corporation, and some regulatory bodies. Add your voice to this effort if you care about this community’s health and safety. Tell Benicia City Council that they are the only ones we will trust to protect us from special interests and corporate greed.]

The Martinez Refining Co. is the focus of a joint civil action over its release of heavy-metal laden dust. | Scott Strazzante / The Chronicle.

CBS News Bay Area, by Carlos Castaneda, December 15, 2023

Flaring from the Martinez Refining Company on Friday morning prompted an investigation by Contra Costa Health officials who expressed concerns of increased flaring events since the refinery was investigated in November 2022 following a major chemical release.

“The health department is very concerned that these incidents are continuing to happen,” said Contra Costa County Health Director Dr. Ori Tzvieli during a briefing Friday on the latest flaring. “At a properly functioning refinery, there should not be regular flaring. There should not be releases of catalyst and coke dust onto the community as we have seen.

“So we’re very concerned that there’s underlying processes and safety practices at this refinery that are not up to snuff … It’s not acceptable to have these ongoing releases and flaring events,” Tzvieli said.

Nicole Heath, director of Contra Costa Health’s hazardous materials program, explained that MRC notified CCH via the county’s Community Warning System of an incident at the refinery around 9:15 a.m. Initially, the CWS notification identified the flaring as a Level 1 incident — or one that has no expected off-site consequences.

At the same time, CCH received complaints from residents in the greater Martinez area about a strong odor and deployed its hazmat response team to investigate, later calling for the incident to be elevated to a Level 2 — one that is expected to have an impact on the community. Tzvieli said this could mean those with sensitivities to the odor might experience headaches or other irritations.

Heath noted that CCH’s air monitoring systems did not indicate quantities of gas above health advisory levels published by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. She said the standards are used to determine the exposure levels at which it’s believed there would be an effect on public health. The CCH team has taken readings throughout the community, including at various elementary schools, she added.

Tzvieli said the monitors are detecting low levels of a gas called hydrogen sulfide and noted there may be other sulfur-containing gases in the air. They can be a byproduct of the refining process, but he said they should not be released.

Heath expanded on the refining process, which requires high temperatures and pressure to convert oils into different gases. Flaring is a means to safely release excess pressure. However, she noted, the increase in flaring events indicates that units are having issues more often — potentially a symptom of a deeper issue.

“So when we get the 72-hour report, our team will be able to investigate the incident and see if there are any regulatory non-compliances as a result of this,” Heath said.

When asked if the refinery would be closed down due to noncompliance, the CCH officials said it would be premature to make that determination.

“But we are very committed to investigating this fully and understanding the causes and working with the facility to have safer practices,” Tzvieli said. “Because as I said, this level of flaring releases is not acceptable to our community.”

In a Friday morning Facebook post, MRC, owned by PBF Energy Inc., wrote that the flaring occurred due to an “operational incident.”

The post said, “We are aware of odor complaints and are conducting community monitoring to investigate the source. All appropriate agencies have been notified, and we are working to address these issues. We apologize for any inconvenience to our neighbors. Flares are an essential part of a refinery’s integrated, engineered safety systems designed to safely manage excess combustible gases by burning them off efficiently and effectively.”

MRC officials were not immediately available to comment further on Friday’s flaring.

Reports of the odor have from as far as Crockett, about 11 miles away.

Last month during another flaring incident, the oil refinery said the burnoff was an essential part of safety for the plant’s systems. That flaring incident came a day after a class-action lawsuit accused the refinery of creating a “public nuisance” by releasing chemicals into the surrounding community.

Last year on Thanksgiving night, the refinery released an estimated 20 to 24 tons of “spent catalyst” into the surrounding community until the following morning, when residents found their yards and vehicles covered in metallic dust.

The refinery failed to alert the county health department and the community warning system, both of which are legally mandated within 15 minutes of a release.

Video: Initial report on Chevron Refinery flaring incident released

This short video features Adam Springer, Assistant Director of Contra Costa County’s Hazardous Materials Program, and Contra Costa Supervisor John Gioa addressing the Chevron Refinery’s recent flaring incident. It is about two-and-a-half minutes long and worth a quick watch.

Flaring reported at Martinez refinery day after class action lawsuit proposed

The Martinez Refining Co. is the focus of a joint civil action over its release of heavy-metal laden dust. | Scott Strazzante / The Chronicle.

ABC7, by J. R. Stone, November 29, 2023

MARTINEZ, Calif. (KGO) — Flaring in the form of at least two massive flames could be seen at the Martinez Refining Company for much of Wednesday evening.

This comes just a day after a “proposed class action lawsuit” was filed against the company for past chemical releases during flaring incidents.

Those from the Martinez refinery said there was an operational incident that happened around 4:30 p.m. Wednesday. The refinery has issued at least two statements saying that the appropriate agencies were notified, and a community notification was given. Those from the refinery say, “We have been maintaining clean combustion during the flaring, and ground-level air monitoring has shown normal measurements.”

We talked with Mitzi Crawford, who lives about a mile away and saw the flaring.

“Number one, there’s a sound kind of a roaring, sound kind of made my tension like oh – something’s happening – so I just turned to look over towards the refinery and there’s quite a large fire that’s coming out of there. Concerning for the whole neighborhood, if people start to wonder and don’t know why you have asthma and all these other things, chronic conditions such as that they don’t investigate it, it’s concerning to see some of this,” said Crawford.

This flaring comes just a day after a proposed class action lawsuit was filed against the Martinez refinery alleging the location has created a “public nuisance.” Citing Thanksgiving of 2022 when 2,024 tons of “spent catalyst” was released into the community leaving metallic dust on things.

The Contra Costa Health Department is investigating after a flare-up at the Martinez Refinery sent white ash raining down on nearby neighborhoods. | Still from ABC7 footage.

“Is there a belief that it effects anyone’s health?” we asked attorney Blair Kittle.

“I think there is definitely a concern, that is part of what we’re asking for in our suit, to make sure there is medical monitoring. A regime that people can go and find that out for sure at scale paid for by the refinery, so there is definitely a concern,” said Kittle.

Mitzi also sent us this cell phone video showing what appears to be particles in the air. She is concerned about what may have been released. The Bay Area Air Quality Management District says their inspectors are investigating the flaring.

In their statement, the Martinez refinery went on to say that “flares are an essential part of a refinery’s integrated, engineered safety systems, designed to safely manage excess gases through efficient, effective combustion.”

Here is the statement issued by the Martinez Refinery:

“At approximately 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday, November 29, an operational incident occurred at the Martinez Refinery that led to flaring that was visible offsite. In following our procedures, appropriate agencies were notified, and we promptly issued a Community Warning System Level 1 notification.

We have been maintaining clean combustion during the flaring, and ground-level air monitoring has shown normal measurements. You are welcome to view real-time measurements at our fenceline air monitoring website: Looking forward, we expect intermittent flaring to continue while our employees address these issues.

Flares are an essential part of a refinery’s integrated, engineered safety systems, designed to safely manage excess gases through efficient, effective combustion. You can learn more about flaring on our website:

We apologize for any inconvenience to our neighbors and thank our employees for their professional response. As always, we have a community inquiry phone number you can call 925-313-3777 or 925-313-3601 during off work hours. Thank you.”

Fire at Martinez refinery injures one, prompts temporary public health advisory

[Note from BenIndy: This incident occurred at the Martinez Renewable Fuels (Marathon) refinery, not the (apparently also) troubled Martinez Refining Company that is currently the subject of a joint civil action brought by the Contra Costa DA and BAAQMD.]

The Martinez Marathon Refinery is pictured in January 2019. | CrystalMage / Shutterstock.

ABC7, Bay City News, November 19, 2023

MARTINEZ, Calif. — Contra Costa Health said on social media at 1:34 a.m. a CCH hazardous materials team was “responding to reports of a fire at Martinez Renewable Fuels (Marathon Refinery) that may affect surrounding areas.”

A public health advisory was issued for Martinez, Pacheco, Concord and Clyde. People were asked to visit Contra Costa Health Department for information.

Shortly after, CCH said on social media it lifted the public health advisory for Martinez, Pacheco, Concord and Clyde. “The fire at Martinez Renewable Fuels is under control,” is said.


CCH said on its website at 3:54 a.m. “Flaring incident at Marathon Martinez that may be seen by the surrounding community.”

An all clear for Martinez, Pacheco, Concord and Clyde” was later issued on the CCH web page.

Contra Costa County Fire Captain George Lang told ABC7 News Sunday morning one person was hurt and airlifted to an area hospital.

The company says they will be investigating the fire to figure out what caused it.

The company issued a statement to ABC7 News writing:

“Marathon Petroleum responders extinguished a fire early this morning at the company’s Martinez renewable fuels facility. One employee was injured and transported to a medical facility. Fenceline air monitoring indicated no off-site impact. Regulatory notifications were made. The safety of our employees, contractors, and the surrounding community is our top priority. An investigation will be conducted to determine the cause of the incident.”

This refinery is not associated with Martinez Refining Company.