Weekend odor in Benicia caused by mechanical issue at refinery

[Note from BenIndy: You may be wondering why we’ve been slow to report on this incident at the Valero Benicia Refinery when usually we’d be all over it, and well ahead of the game at that. In this case there was a need elsewhere, in the form of helping the good folks in the Benicia Industrial Safety and Healthy Ordinance Working Group (BISHO) put a website together to generate more interest and community engagement in pursuit of Benicia adopting its own industrial safety ordinance. We regret the sparse coverage of this important incident at the Valero Benicia Refinery, but hope you understand that those of us keeping the BenIndy going are also active in service to delivering the brilliant, overarching goal of meaningful City and community oversight over heavy industry in Benicia. Please forgive this lapse in our coverage, and take a minute to review the BISHO.org website. If you are interested in these matters, please sign up using the contact forms on that website. Also, don’t forget to sign up for future incident alerts at www.solanocounty.com/AlertSolano.]

Valero Benicia Refinery file photo. | Paul Chinn / SF Chron.

Vallejo Times-Herald, by Lynzie Lowe, February 26, 2024

The Valero Benicia Refinery informed the Benicia Fire Department on Friday of an unanticipated mechanical issue, which released refined hydrocarbons that caused a strong odor throughout the city of Benicia over the weekend.

When the unit went down, officials said it was necessary to immediately move the product inside into another tank.

“It was discovered that in the process of moving the product, some of it got on the lid of a tank and that was the source of the strong odor,” read a release issued by city officials on Saturday. “There is no specific name for the product; it is a mixture of refined hydrocarbons similar to a light oil. The chemical vapor in the air causing the odor is H2S, hydrogen sulfide. The odor has dissipated significantly in most parts of Benicia.”

Della Olm, Management Analyst and Benicia Fire Department Public Information Officer, said, as of Monday morning, the spill on the tank lid is almost cleaned up and is expected to be completely mitigated by the end of the day Monday or Tuesday morning.

City officials said the Benicia Fire Department has been in continuous communication with Solano County Public Health, who has recommended to only shelter in place if the odor smell was too strong and/or it was aggravating. The Benicia Fire Department staff were also activated at the Valero Emergency Operations Center over the weekend.

“The refinery is flaring intermittently due to the unit shut off on the evening of February 23,” according to a press release. “Intermittent flaring will continue for an undetermined period of time.”

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Other reporting on this recent refinery incident: