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March 04, 2013
Corrosion faulted in Chevron Refinery fire

Burst piping that led to a massive fire at the Chevron Refinery in Richmond, California, ruptured “due to severe sulfidation corrosion.”

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According to a report issued by Cal/OSHA and the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Board (CSB), the 1976-era pipe showed a low concentration of corrosion-inhibiting silicon. The resulting hydrocarbon release and fire occurred August 6, 2012.

Board Chairperson Rafael Moure-Eraso said he hopes the report receives widespread attention in the petrochemical industry. It should serve, he suggests, “as a precaution to all refiners to carefully examine potential corrosion mechanisms and use the safest possible materials of construction to avoid failures.”

Cal/OSHA Chief Ellen Widess said Chevron knew that the pipe was severely corroded and that it should have been replaced, but failed to do so. That inaction was included in citations the California safety agency issued to Chevron.

A vapor cloud formed by the hydrocarbon release engulfed 19 Chevron employees, resulting in six minor injuries.

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