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Investigators have checked over the site of the fire at Chevron’s refinery at Richmond and have compiled their preliminary report. They have found extensive damage to the cooling towers, pipe racks, and the heat tower, leading IIR Energy, the industry intelligence group, to predict that the plant will be shut for at least four to six months.
Chevron could keep producing refined products by buying the intermediate feedstock from the market, although it will be almost impossible to secure enough of this type of oil to keep producing motor fuels at the same rate as before. They have not yet decided whether or not they will try to continue operations at the refinery.
The US Chemical Safety Board has said that workers at the refinery were trying to stop a leak of gas-oil, a feedstock used to make gasoline, from a pipe connected to the crude distillation unit (CDU). The leak grew until a large cloud of vapour was released, at which point all the workers evacuated the area, just moments before the cloud ignited.
The fire damaged the only atmospheric tower on the CDU, which is a vital part of the process of converting crude oil to gasoline, as well as all other oil products developed at the refinery.
By. Charles Kennedy of Oilprice.com
Charles is a writer for Oilprice.com