Donald Campbell, global manager of downstream and technology and government affairs for Chevron Corp., is responding to the Aug. 11 editorial "Chevron fire should be a wake-up call," which raised questions about what Chevron officials at the Richmond plant did from the time a leak was discovered until more than two hours later when the fire ignited.
Chevron's Richmond refinery is committed to operating safely and reliably. On Aug. 6 we fell short of this standard. We want to make it clear that we are striving to make things right. Part of this effort is cooperating with county, state and federal authorities to learn what caused the incident so that we can take steps to prevent it from happening again.
The Bee's editorial misstated some important information about the incident and our operations that we would like to set straight. It is wrong to conclude, as the editorial did, that we took a less costly approach when evaluating the crude unit rather than simply deciding to shut it down. Refinery processes are complicated and do not run or shut down at the flip of a switch. When the small leak was detected, Chevron workers initiated procedures to assess the risk and implement mitigation efforts. Unfortunately, during this evaluation process, the leak worsened and ultimately ignited. Personnel then evacuated and followed emergency-response procedures and made agency notifications.
The editorial also noted that we are in a protracted process to gain permits to modernize certain parts of our refinery, and suggested that this was somehow related to last week's incident. To be very clear, the crude unit where the fire occurred is not subject to our permitting efforts. We remain committed to improving our refinery with this project and will continue to work with the community as we have done for years during the permitting process. This project will bring 1,000 jobs to Richmond, will reduce emissions and will make our refinery safer, more reliable and more energy efficient.
We have had a successful 110-year history in Richmond. Ongoing outreach to Richmond and West Contra Costa County communities continues to be one of our priorities, as we look forward to building upon the relationships that will allow our business to continue serving consumers throughout California.