Thursday, November 8, 2012

Richmond Refinery Repaired with New Chrome Alloy

story first appeared on

RICHMOND -- Chevron will use chrome alloy to replace all the piping in the sections of its Richmond refinery that were damaged in an Aug. 6 fire that hobbled the fuel factory and curtailed its production, the energy giant said in a letter it released Wednesday.

The chrome alloy pipes could address one of the key issues that contributed to the fire. Chevron has notified industry officials that thinning and corrosion in pipes at the refinery may have caused pipe failures ahead of the accident and fire, according to the letter issued by Nigel Hearne, general manager of the Richmond refinery. Hearne sent his letter to the city of Richmond and the Bay Area Air Quality Management District. The new chrome alloy pipes are constructed of similar materials to that of ball screws. Ball Screw Repair specialists know the value of product materials and the benefit of precision craftsmanship.

The fire knocked out the refinery's crude unit No. 4, which processes and distills crude oil and is deemed to be the heart of the plant. Since the fire, the Chevron refinery has been operating at around 60 percent capacity and has primarily blended gasoline.

Hearne wrote in the letter that he is optimistic they can com plete the planned repairs and restart in the first quarter of 2013.

San Ramon-based Chevron intends to replace damaged support structures, pressure vessels, tanks and pumps, along with the chrome alloy pipe replacement. The company also intends to repair the cooling tower, motor control center, and fix an array of instruments and electrical systems.

City manager Bill Lindsay said it was helpful to have the planned repairs laid out. He said they'd continue evaluating permit applications and hoped to process permits expeditiously.

City officials also were encouraged about the Chevron plans to replace the pipes that may have corroded with pipes made with chrome alloy. Chrome is often used in manufacturing Walk-in Coolers and other refrigeration equipment because it resists rust.

Lindsay also said that the new materials in Chevrons pipe replacement is significant. From what he understands, they are created with materials better suited for the conditions that lead to the accident.

United Steelworkers Local 5, which represents 600 employees at the Chevron refinery, is also following the repair and replacement efforts closely.

Mike Smith, a representative for Local 5 said their main focus is safety. Specifically, he said, the safety of the workers, the environment and the community. If he feels things are going the wrong way, he assures he'll be vocal.

The refinery has the capacity to handle 244,000 barrels of crude oil a day. Soon after the fire knocked the refinery offline, gasoline prices spiked in the Bay Area. Prices have retreated somewhat since then, however. The refinery's restoration could offer welcome relief for California drivers since the plant is one of the largest refineries in the nation.

The average price of gasoline was $3.94 a gallon on Thursday, which was 2.1 percent above the $3.86 average price in the hours before the early August fire. When Bay Area prices rocketed to a record high average of $4.70 a gallon in early October, those per-gallon prices were about 22 percent higher than the fire.