Note: I will publish the Chemical Safety Board’s subpoena’s tomorrow morning in the E-FORUM.
Email from City Manager Bill Lindsay:
From: Bill Lindsay [mailto:email@example.com]
Sent: Monday, December 17, 2012 6:48 PM
To: Booze, Corky; Corky Booze; firstname.lastname@example.org; Gayle McLaughlin; Ritterman, Jeff; Jeffery Shoji; Beckles, Jovanka; Bates, Nat; Nicole Valentino; Butt, Tom
Cc: Velasco, Lina; Goodmiller, Bruce; Richard Mitchell; Rachel Sommovilla
Subject: Reports by City Metallurgists Concerning Pipe Material in Chevron Refinery Repair
Mayor and Members of the City Council:
This is an update regarding technical information for the review of Chevron’s material selection for repair of damaged process piping at the Richmond refinery. As you will recall, the City has retained two metallurgical consultants, Jim McLaughlin and David Hendrix, to provide a review of Chevron’s technical analysis. We had hoped to receive their reports by the end of the day today (Monday) but that schedule could not be met. We understand that the City should receive these reports by tomorrow (Tuesday) midday. We will distribute their reports to you and the broader public as soon as they are available.
In the meantime, please feel free to contact me if you have any questions or require any additional information.
City of Richmond
U.S. wants Chevron to justify new pipe
Jaxon Van Derbeken
Published 9:01 pm, Sunday, December 16, 2012
Responding to concerns raised by federal investigators looking into the August fire at Chevron's Richmond refinery, company officials say replacement pipe being installed at the plant will resist the type of corrosion that led to the blaze.
Investigators with the U.S. Chemical Safety Board have pressed Chevron officials to justify their selection of pipe made with a metal alloy known as 9 Chrome to replace the carbon-steel pipe destroyed in the Aug. 6 blaze.
The federal agency warned Chevron that 9 Chrome pipe at a BP refinery near Bellingham, Wash., was badly damaged by corrosion before springing a leak in February, sparking a fire that caused extensive damage. Chevron responded Wednesday, saying in an analysis to Richmond officials that its new pipe not only meets "all industry and fire safety standards" but would resist the type of corrosion that caused the August fire.
Official test results are still pending, but the company has said the blaze was caused by high-temperature, sulfur-heavy crude corroding away the carbon-steel pipe, which was low in protective silicon.
The company said in October that it would install 9 Chrome, a metal alloy higher in a key corrosion-fighting component, chromium. Federal investigators noted that a third type of pipe material, stainless steel, is even higher in chromium than 9 Chrome. Chevron's internal guidelines dealing with pipeline replacement and inspections refer to stainless steel pipe as being immune to sulfur-related corrosion.
Richmond officials are holding up the permit process for the refinery reconstruction until the matter is sorted out, Chevron says, potentially jeopardizing the company's plans to have the plant back in full operation in January. City officials say independent experts will review the company's latest analysis before Richmond decides whether to grant more permits.
Permits sought this week
Chevron has told officials it will have to suspend repairs and lay off as many as 600 workers if it doesn't get needed permits by Thursday.
In an analysis posted last week on the city's website, Chevron senior materials engineer Ned Niccolls and refinery business manager Barbara Smith said 9 Chrome is best suited to combat corrosion caused by sulfur-laden oil.
The February fire at the BP plant in Washington state "may seem relevant" to the Richmond incident but was not "analogous," they said.
That's because oil in the failed BP line was stagnant, allowing corrosive materials to build up and ultimately cause it to rupture, the Chevron officials wrote. Pipes made of 9 Chrome that have oil flowing through them consistently have not failed, they said.
Fears over stainless steel
Stainless steel could "introduce a new damage mechanism" at the refinery, the Chevron officials wrote. Salts and acid in oil and the surrounding vapor at the refinery can cause stainless steel lines to succumb to stress corrosion cracking, which the company says is far less predictable than sulfur corrosion. The officials said 9 Chrome is immune from that damage.
"A final but vitally important consideration in selecting materials for a particular service is the ability to monitor the equipment against damage mechanisms," the Chevron officials said. "A key reason for the selection of 9 Chrome is its predictable corrosion rate, which makes monitoring" more effective.
But industry standards suggest that sulfur corrosion is unpredictable as well, and Chevron's line failed in Richmond even though it had been inspected three times in one year, federal investigators have said.
U.S. requests documents
The Chemical Safety Board's general manager, Daniel Horowitz, said Chevron has yet to comply with a Dec. 7 subpoena for documentation about its 9 Chrome decision.
"We don't view it as the board's role to make a specific recommendation about what alloy Chevron should use," Horowitz said Friday. "However, we are looking at how the overall process can be improved in the future with greater transparency and oversight."
Horowitz said the federal board is "awaiting detailed responses from Chevron about the basis for their selections" of piping material. "We have sent them document requests and interrogatories, and they have not responded. They have promised us a schedule for compliance next week."
Chevron officials said senior refinery managers met with board officials Thursday in Washington, D.C. They did not say what the outcome of the talks was.
The Richmond City Council is expect to discuss the permit issue Tuesday.
Jaxon Van Derbeken is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. E-mail: email@example.com
Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/U-S-wants-Chevron-to-justify-new-pipe-4122766.php#ixzz2FN5deskL
Richmond to hold public meeting on permits for Chevron refinery work
By Robert Rogers
Contra Costa Times
Posted: 12/17/2012 03:48:12 PM PST
Updated: 12/17/2012 04:08:17 PM PST
RICHMOND -- City officials have scheduled a public meeting for Wednesday night to talk about specifications for rebuilding the Chevron refinery crude unit that caught fire after a pipe failure Aug. 6.
The meeting, set for 6:30 p.m. in the City Council chamber, will include discussions on metals that will be used in the repair of failed pipes, updates on the investigations into the fire and other plans.
Among the agencies expected to be represented at the meeting are Contra Costa County, the U.S. Chemical Safety Board, the state Division of Occupational Safety and Health, Bay Area Air Quality Management District and the Environmental Protection Agency.
Residents are encouraged to attend and provide feedback.
The meeting was prompted by the Dec. 4 council meeting, when city officials, residents and watchdog groups raised concerns that staff had already issued some permits with little discussion or oversight. The council voted to require City Manager Bill Lindsay to hold a public meeting this month to share information and encourage public feedback.
The Aug. 6 fire occurred when a 5-foot-long section of 8-inch carbon steel pipe carrying high-temperature gas oil sprung a leak, releasing hydrocarbons that soon ignited. The fire resulted in injuries to several workers and sent thousands of residents to hospitals in the area to seek treatment. Chevron has reported that the leak resulted from accelerated sulfidation corrosion,
exacerbated by low silicon content in the carbon steel.
The Chemical Safety Board is expected to release its findings into the fire's cause early next year.
Councilman Tom Butt, who last month criticized the permitting process as moving too fast, said the meeting should be a good opportunity to learn and affect the process.
"Things are better now," Butt said. "The city is doing more to make sure the public understands the process."
As part of its permit application, Chevron provided the city a detailed risk analysis regarding the selection of pipe material for the repair on Dec. 12.
The city has retained two metallurgical specialists to evaluate Chevron's plans, which call for using 9 Chrome alloy as piping material in the unit, which ferries high-temperature, sulfur-containing fuels.
Environmental watchdog groups have criticized the plan to use 9 Chrome alloy, saying more durable metals are available and that Chevron is not in compliance with a city resolution passed last month calling on the refinery to use only the "best available technology" in rebuilding the burned unit.
Contact Robert Rogers at 510-262-2726 or firstname.lastname@example.org, and follow Twitter.com/roberthrogers.
IF YOU GO
What: Public meeting to discuss rebuilding of Chevron refinery crude unit
When: 6:30 p.m. Wednesday
Where: City Council chamber, 440 Civic Center Plaza