In response to the fire and chemical release at Chevron’s Richmond Refinery in August of 2012 the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB), California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA), Office of Emergencies Services and California EPA began looking at the conditions of refineries across the state.
As a result of their investigation, the State determined that there is a need for stronger and improved process safety regulations in the areas of employee safety and accidental release prevention and response.
Consulting with Workers and Other Parties
To determine what changes to the regulations might be necessary, California agencies consulted with numerous parties involved with, or potentially affected by, refinery operations. They spoke with refinery workers, leaders in the industry, local communities residents and leaders, and other non-governmental organizations.
The major concerns centered around equipment reliability and safety, worker participation in safety programs at the facility, and measures to prevent and control accidental releases and loss of containment.
In their investigative report on the 2012 Chevron refinery fire, the CSB recommended enhancements and restructuring of California’s process safety management (PSM) regulations for petroleum refineries. Some of these included:
- Requiring a comprehensive process hazards analysis (PHA) performed by the facility;
- Requiring a thorough review of the PHA by regulatory personnel;
- Requiring preventive audits and inspections by regulators to ensure effective implementation of the PHA;
- More scrutiny over evaluation and monitoring of the mechanical integrity of equipment used in refineries;
- Implement an approach for continuous risk reduction;
- Utilizing damage mechanism hazard review as an integral part of the PHA to develop effective safeguards for equipment and processes; Adopting an improved safety culture among employees working at the refineries and active workforce participation
Regulatory changes have centered on improvements to worker and public safety and adding stronger restrictions and more accountability for refineries that cause accidental releases under the California Accidental Release Prevention Program (Cal-ARP).
More details can be found here.
What Does This Mean for Refineries?
With an increase in regulatory scrutiny, refineries need to more aggressively implement PSM standards. Aging systems that relied on older safety codes are going to need to be replaced with more modern and safety conscious machinery. This might mean relying on modular upgrades since replacing significant amounts of equipment all at once will require a substantial capital investment. Not to mention that wide scale upgrades can create downtime that a refinery that is already at capacity cannot afford.
Modular designs will allow plants to replace sections at a time. As a modular upgrade is delivered it can be brought online and older, unsafe, parts of the plant can be taken offline.
Alternatives to Release
When North Dakota and Texas began discussing limiting the flaring that shale oil drillers were allowed to do, an alternative had to be found. That is where technology based on the Fischer-Tropsch process was able to help by turning unwanted natural gas into low sulfur diesel fuel.
These types of alternatives can also be employed to help California refineries reduce their emissions work to contain accidental releases and turn them into something that may be used instead of discarded.
COSTELLO Can Help with Plant Design and Safety Upgrades
Does your team have the expertise that it needs to be able to handle new process design, equipment install and plant upgrades? If not, why not let COSTELLO help?