Report faults Chevron safety, regulators, in 2012 refinery fire

Federal investigators are blaming company safety culture, flawed emergency response and inadequate federal regulations for a 2012 fire at a Chevron Corp. refinery in California.

The conclusions were the result of an extensive investigation of the incident at the Richmond, Calif., refinery from the Chemical Safety Board (CSB). The board released its draft report Thursday and will meet next week to make it final.

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The incident also created a vapor cloud that engulfed 19 workers, and 15,000 local residents sought medical treatment after the fire, the CSB said.

“The CSB’s investigation report identifies gaps in current industry guidelines and shortcomings in Chevron's safety culture and emergency response,” Rafael Moure-Eraso, chairman of the CSB, said in a statement.

“Our previous reports on this accident have found numerous safety deficiencies that occurred over the years prior to the vapor release and fire as well as root causes and safety recommendations which we are pleased to see California has begun acting upon.”

The report lists a series of problems that led to the fire, including failure by Chevron to inspect and upgrade vulnerable piping.

A pipe ruptured, spraying petroleum that eventually ignited, and emergency responders could not immediately find the sources of the leaks.

“This lack of knowledge of all potential causes of the 4-sidecut piping leak led the incident commander to direct emergency responders to take actions that may have ultimately exacerbated the leak and put many Chevron personnel in harm’s way," the report found.

“It also led the incident commander to limit the 'hot zone' to a small area that did not consider the possibility of pipe rupture. When the 4-sidecut piping ruptured, personnel and firefighting equipment positioned in the ‘cold zone’ were engulfed in the large vapor cloud.”