Missed opportunities to apply inherently safer design, failure to identify and evaluate damage mechanism hazards, and the lack of effective safeguards culminated in the vapor cloud release and massive fire that occurred at the Chevron refinery on August 6, 2012, a draft report by the U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) has found. The investigation team concluded that enhanced regulatory oversight with greater worker involvement and public participation are needed to improve oil refinery safety.
The report, subject to a Board vote at a CSB public meeting in Richmond on Friday, April 19, notes that Chevron repeatedly over a ten-year period failed to effectively apply inherently safer design principles and upgrade piping in its crude oil processing unit that was extremely corroded and ultimately ruptured on August 6, 2012. The ensuing release of hydrocarbons endangered 19 workers who narrowly escaped from a vapor cloud before it ignited, causing a fire that sent a plume across the area. 15,000 people sought medical treatment in the weeks following the accident.