On Aug. 6, 2012, the Number 4 crude unit at the Richmond Chevron refinery caught fire, sending 15,000 residents to the hospital. According to an investigation conducted by the United States Chemical Safety Board, the managers at Chevron failed to acknowledge warnings issued about a broken pipe.
The company was also reprimanded for allowing employees to repair a corroded pipe while the plant was still operating. As the employees poked at the pipe, a vapor cloud was released. The cloud quickly caught fire and somehow 20 employees escaped with their lives.
A black cloud engulfed the Bay Area that was filled with toxic dioxins and heavy metals. Many people who saw the fire decided to watch it live outdoors not knowing that the air they were breathing was harmful for their health.
Despite more than $1 million in fines from the fire back in 2012, Chevron is still struggling with safety issues at its Richmond refinery. A report was created in 2016 by state safety inspectors that warned the company about pressure relief valves. The company was cited for not following industry standards regarding these pieces of equipment.
The valves are vital to the safety of all those in the refinery because they prevent the buildup of pressure, which can lead to a leak and then another fire. Chevron has also switched its oil to a cheaper crude, which can corrode pipes quicker because of its higher volume of sulfur.
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Source: NBC Bay Area, “Years After Massive Fire, Chevron Refinery Still Being Cited for Safety Violations,” Aug. 04, 2017