CSB Drafts Recommendations to Improve Refinery Safety

In a final investigation report released in January, the U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) identifies deficiencies in current industry standards related to mechanical integrity and leak evaluation and response. The agency found shortcomings in industry standards related to comprehensive inspection, effective facility upgrades, and the need for minimum safety requirements.

The report is the third and final one in the agency’s investigation of the August 2012 Chevron Refinery fire in Richmond, Calif., which started when light gas oil leaked from a ruptured pipe and ignited. Nineteen refinery employees were endangered during the fire, and 15,000 people sought medical attention due to a vapor cloud that was released into the surrounding area. 
CSB’s report also details failures in Chevron’s emergency response to the incident, including a lack of leak response guidance or formal protocol for operations personnel, refinery management, or emergency responders. Further, the report states that the company “did not effectively identify a likely piping damage mechanism and the possibility of catastrophic rupture.”
The agency concludes its report with safety recommendations to help promote safer operations at petroleum refineries and protect workers and communities from similar accidents. Based on its findings, CSB recommends that the American Petroleum Institute establish and strengthen minimum requirements for preventing potentially catastrophic sulfidation corrosion failures and safety guidance for responding to hazardous process fluid leaks. CSB urges Chevron to ensure process safety and employee safety by developing an accountability method to identify and track effective implementation of industry best practices. Finally, the agency recommends revisions to the Richmond, Calif., Industrial Safety Ordinance to provide stronger regulatory oversight with community involvement to the existing safety culture review program.

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The report is available on CSB’s website.
The first CSB report on the incident, an interim investigation report, cited “missed opportunities to apply inherently safer design, failure to identify and evaluate damage mechanism hazards, and [a] lack of effective safeguards” as contributors to the fire, which was caused by a catastrophic pipe failure. Tests commissioned by CSB and Cal/OSHA showed that the pipe failure was due to thinning caused by sulfidation corrosion. The second report called on California to enhance its process safety management regulations for petroleum refineries and recommended “substantial” changes to the way those refineries are regulated in the state.
The three CSB reports on this incident include a total of 37 safety recommendations for the company, Chevron USA; industry organizations responsible for developing good practice guidelines; and state and federal regulatory bodies. All recommendations and related documents are listed on CSB’s investigation page.
CSB Chairperson Rafael Moure-Eraso commended the state of California, indicating that the agency is “pleased to see California has begun acting upon” CSB’s safety recommendations. 
The agency previously released a computer-animated safety video that covers the sequence of events that led to the accident. The eight-minute narrated video is available on CSB’s website.
Nineteen refinery employees were endangered during the fire, and 15,000 people sought medical attention due to a vapor cloud that was released into the surrounding area.