November 2013

Lessons to be Learnt
John Evans, g3baxi Partnership
The Chevron Richmond Refinery Fire,
Aug 6
A Preface – Trevor Kletz (1922 – 2013)
The best way to reduce risk is to avoid the hazard.
What you don’t have can’t leak.
• Trevor was instrumental in instituting the HAZOP
concept (50 years old this year)
• He also was among the first to propose techniques
such as High Integrity Protection systems as
alternatives to relief valves
• He was a proponent of the primacy of inherent
safety over protection systems

Chevron statement regarding CSB Video
• “We also note that the CSB has released an animation with respect to
the events of August 6, 2012. After we previewed the animation, we
strongly urged the CSB not to release it. We informed the CSB that the
animation contains numerous, material factual inaccuracies, the impact
of which is to oversimplify, and in some instances trivialize, decisions that
were made on that day. The animation also focuses on the actions of
specific individuals, which we believe has the effect, surely not intended,
of demeaning the challenges faced by the responding personnel. The
reasons behind the incident are far more complex than depicted in the
animation and we are disappointed with the CSB's decision to go forward
with this unfair depiction.“
• One must have some sympathy with this view, above all to recognise
that one learns from accidents in the full awareness that emergency
decisions are never made with complete knowledge.
• At key points in the animation we should put ourselves in the position of
the individuals and ask what we would have done.
Incident in Detail – Courtesy CSB website
Chevron Richmond - the Incident
• Failure of a side cut in the Crude Distillation Unit (CDU)
• Ignition of a vapour cloud
• Caused by corrosion
• Consequences,
• CDU out of action for months (may still be in this state)
• Major damage to unit
• Fortunate that no one was killed
• 15,000 people sought medical attention with breathing complaints
• CSB investigation
• State of California Investigation
• Planned refinery expansion on hold
• This presentation takes a lot of information from the CSB interim report,
some of the conclusions and analysis may be disputed.
Chevron Investigation
• Measurements in 2002 indicating thinning were not documented
properly to guide future inspections
• Information from industry experts concerning the processes leading to
failure and means of guarding against such failures, including component
by component inspections, was not shared effectively
• 2011 inspections during major maintenance did not include all
components vulnerable to sufidation corrosion
• After discovery of leaking pipe, the response teams did not recognise the
risk of rupture and fire.

CSB Investigation

• Currently at Interim Report stage
• Concludes the cause of the release was due to sulfidation corrosion
• Identifies weaknesses in:
• Inspection
• Hazard assessment
• Application of the inherently safe principle
• Weaknesses in Management of Change

Results from the Metallurgical Investigation
Anamet, Feb 11 2013, found:-
• The 8” “4-sidecut” was schedule 40 carbon steel from the 1970’s.
• 8 samples of 8” line taken, 5 samples from 12” including samples from
12” pipe replaced in 2011.
• Nominal thickness 8” line 0.322 in, of 12” line 0.4 in
• Sulfidation corrosion (leading to iron sulphide, FeS)
• Wall thinning correlates to low silicon content (<0.1%)
• Tensile and hardness testing OK
• Thickness from 0.322 in to 0.07 – 0.012 in (cf a 1p coin is 0.06 in thick,
thus from 5 x 1p’s to 0.2-1 x 1p’s, or approximately the same as a
business card)
• 8 samples showed 75% with 1/3
wall loss, 25% with 2/3
wall loss
• 2011 12” pipe was as fitted, 2/3
of other pipe had 40% wall loss.
• Wall loss strongly linked to Si content.

Rates of Corrosion with Silicon Content
Susceptibility of US Refineries to Sulfidation

• In the mid 1980s, pipe manufacturers began to simultaneously comply
with all three manufacturing specifications (ASTM A53B, ASTM A106, and
API 5L) when manufacturing carbon steel piping. The majority of carbon
steel piping purchased following this time period likely has a minimum of
0.10 wt. % silicon content.
• Over 95 percent of the 144 refineries in operation in the U.S., including
the Chevron Richmond Refinery were built before 1985

Inspection Techniques
• One must inspect low silicon steel (in fact all steel, but Low Si in
• Inspection generally is done on elbows and fittings – which are usually
the bits of the low Si pipework made of higher Si steel
• There were no condition monitoring locations on the section of pipework
that failed
• Even where accelerated corrosion was identified, on the 52” line in 2002,
this was not followed up
• (will PMI pick up low Si?)
• And yet..
• Chevron employees have authored industry papers on sulfidation
corrosion and had significant influence in the development of the
industry sulfidation corrosion recommended practice, API RP 939-C. This
recommended practice, first published in 2009, was developed under
Chevron leadership. So the expertise is in house.

Corrosion Rate Influences
• Corrosion rates may be quite
• As pipe wall loses thickness it may
flex more, promoting crack growth
and further corrosion
• Change in composition will alter
corrosion rate
• Change in process P/T conditions
Move to Processing Sourer Crudes
From the CSB report
Management of Change
Source: CSB interim report
Pinhole Corrosion?
• Corrosion is characterised by “pinhole”
• “Sulfidation corrosion has caused
severe fires and fatalities in the refining
industry, primarily because it causes
corrosion over a relatively large area, so
failures tend to involve ruptures or large
leaks rather than pinhole leaks. It can be
insidious in that moderately high
corrosion rates can go undetected for
years before failure. Finally, process
changes that increase the temperature
or sulfur content can creep up over time
and multiply corrosion rates so that
what was thought to be a low corrosion
rate system becomes corrosive enough
to fail before the increased corrosion
rate is recognized. “
Chevron’s measurements on the
pipework around the crude unit
indicated an increased rate of
corrosion with a change to higher
sulphur crudes
Consequences of Release
• The release from the full bore rupture of the pipe was a cloud that
partially vapourised;

Consequences of Release
• Why would a diesel type fuel, not collect as a pool?
• Distillation unit reflux lines will always have their process fluids at
their boiling points
• These fluids are also at pressure and at height, so have potential
• They may have other dissolved components in them
• Note also: as their vapour pressure is high (they are boiling) they will
be above their flash point
• The natural state of this liquid on release will be a mist
• Long chain hydrocarbons have higher flame speeds and are more
prone to deflagration and detonation (diesel engines don’t need spark

Human Impact
15,000 health complaints is probably
one of the highest from an industrial
accident, especially a non-lethal one,

which refinery is
Chevron Richmond?

(the red line represents a distance of
1 km)
(images courtesy Google Earth)
Other Refinery Fires Caused by Sulfidation
The Chevron refinery fire is not the first to be attributed to sulfidation as a
cause. There are also:-

• 1988 - Chevron El Paso
• 1988 & 1993 – Chevron Pascagoula
• 2002 – Chevron Salt Lake City
• 2007 – Chevron Richmond (shelter in place alert)
• 2009 – Silver Eagle Woods Cross, Utah (damaging 100 homes)
• 2011 – Regina Canada
• 2012 – bp unit in Cherry Point, Washington

The State of Refineries in the US
US Industrial Process Safety Regulation Issues
• West, Texas
• Lack of knowledge and oversight of AN safety
• AN stored on pallets
• No deluge systems
• Plant siting a cause of the high fatality rate
• Kleen Energy Connecticut
• Gas blows in buildings?
• Inability of the authorities to enforce common sense safety practices
• Gas blows are still legal, though they are banned in Connecticut

What is a Gas Blow
The State of Refineries in Europe
KPMG report 2012
• Over supply
• Competition from newer refineries
• As it was a market report it did not mention high sulphur fuels or the age
of plant.
• Margins are lower even with FCC to monetise low value feeds
• Refineries are only an accident away from being a tank farm
EU Refineries on the Edge
• Grangemouth
• Petroplus: inc. Reichstett and Coryton, both now tank farms
• ConocoPhilips Wilhelmshaven (tank farm)

• EU refineries might be one industrial dispute, or fire, away from a change
of use.
• Such events can have local political impact
• They can also affect the economics of downstream industrial enterprises
such as petrochemical plants

• This fire was caused by a problem that can affect every refinery over a
certain age
• It is hard to detect using standard techniques, even by industry leaders
• Response to early indications and replacement is the only cure
• Sensitivity to corrosion stressing mechanisms should feature in
inspection programs
• It is difficult to distinguish between minor and major consequences
caused by corrosion leaks.
• Precautionary shutdowns may be needed (though transients can also
cause problems)
• Consequences may be vastly different to those that the refinery plans for
and fire fighting equipment may be lost
• Aged refineries are a world wide problem, operators need to be aware of
their heritage, and regulators need to be aware, too.
• Some argument to say they are better regulated outside the US
(remember it is the same multinationals who operate them)


Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful