Tuesday, August 14, 2012

2012-08 Shell Refinery fire in Martinez

2012-08-13 "Small Fire At Shell Refinery Monday; The afternoon fire did very little damage, but caused some smoke in the area"
by Jim Caroompas from "Benicia Patch" [http://benicia.patch.com/articles/small-fire-at-shell-refinery-monday]:
A fire broke out at the Shell Refinery around 2 p.m. Monday, a Shell spokeswoman said. No damage was reported.
The fire was in the light oil processing unit, according to Shell spokesperson Erin Hallissy.
"The unit was immediately evacuated and all personnel are accounted for," she said. "Our fire crews responded and quickly put it out. They continued to put water on the unit to cool it down."
Shell also notifed the Contra Costa Health Services Department that the facility had a level 2 incident, which does not require a shelter in place warning, but people with respiratory problems were advised to avoid the area.
Photograph by Jim Caroompas showing the dispersed smoke from the small fire from the Shell Corporation Refinery:

2012-08-13 "Shell refinery fire put out in Martinez"
by Vivian Ho from "San Francisco Chronicle" [http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/Shell-refinery-fire-put-out-in-Martinez-3785251.php]:
A small fire broke out in the light oil processing unit at the Shell refinery in Martinez but was quickly put out Monday, a spokeswoman for the refinery said.
It was the second refinery fire in a week in the Bay Area, still jittery from the big Aug. 6 blaze at the Chevron refinery in Richmond.
The Shell fire began at about 2 p.m. and was knocked down at about 2:15 p.m. by Shell fire crews, said Erin Hallissy, a spokeswoman for the refinery.
The cause is under investigation.

2012-08-14 "More problems at Martinez Shell refinery
 by Vivian Ho from "San Francisco Chronicle" [http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/More-problems-at-Martinez-Shell-refinery-3787852.php]:
Hazardous materials teams are investigating why a sour aroma wafted from the Shell refinery in Martinez on Tuesday, the second problem there in two days, health officials said.
The release happened about 12:30 p.m. when an "upset in equipment" released a foul-smelling mix of butane and propane, said Shell spokeswoman Erin Hallissy. Refinery officials activated flares to burn off the excess gas and release pressure, sending smoke above the surrounding area.
Much of the odor dissipated from Martinez in about an hour, but winds blew the fumes east until crews sealed the leak at 2:35 p.m., Hallissy said.
Residents as far away as northern Concord noticed the smell, according to the Contra Costa County health services agency.
The cause of the leak is under investigation.
Officials did not issue a shelter-in-place warning, but they did recommend that people with respiratory problems stay inside and avoid the area.
The release came on the heels of a small fire in the light-oil processing unit less than a day earlier that forced an evacuation of the refinery on Pacheco Boulevard. Tuesday's problem, which took place in a separate unit, was not related, Hallissy said.
Just one week earlier, a major fire at the Chevron refinery in Richmond sent clouds of smoke into the air, prompting thousands of people to be checked at local hospitals.

2012-08-14 "Safety alert lifted at Shell refinery in Martinez after gas leak sealed"

by Rick Hurd and Sean Maher from "Oakland Tribune" [http://www.mercurynews.com/news/ci_21311295/no-danger-at-martinez-shell-refinery-despite-reports]:
MARTINEZ -- A gas leak that caused black smoke to rise from the Shell oil refinery in Martinez on Tuesday was sealed by 3 p.m., in time for people to resume their outside activities, officials said.
"It is safe to be outside," said Randy Sawyer, the Chief Environmental Health and Hazardous Materials Officer for Contra Costa County.
A leak starting about 12:40 p.m. caused the black smoke, a refinery spokesman said. A piece of safety equipment called a flare began burning off the gas so the leak wouldn't combust, Shell spokesman Steve Lesher said
The Contra Costa County Health Department issued a health advisory at 1:31 p.m. A Level 2 warning alerted citizens that the smell of propane gas was noticeable off-site from the refinery, and that some residents might experience discomfort from their eyes, Sawyer said.
Shell is investigating the exact cause of the odor, the refinery reported on its website, and the equipment that leaked won't be used again until it's fixed. The gas was a "propane/butane mixture similar to what you would find in a barbecue," the notice said. The warning was lifted at 2:45 p.m. after the leak was sealed, Sawyer said. Shell identified the equipment failure early in the process, he said.
"There are no new odor complaints, and we're not picking up any new odors," Sawyer said.
No fire was reported and the nature of the leak posed no threat of a fire, Lesher said. A call for residents to shelter in place never occurred.
The incident is the latest in a harrowing two weeks at area refineries. A small fire Monday at the Shell refinery was contained in about 10 minutes and prompted a Level 1 health threat, advising those with asthma or other breathing problems to remain indoors. That fire came one week after a massive fire Aug. 6 at the Chevron refinery in Richmond, which kept residents in Richmond, North Richmond, San Pablo and North Oakland indoors for several hours while fire crews battled the blaze. That fire shut down a major unit in the refinery, injured five employees and sent plumes of black smoke across East Bay communities into Tuesday morning. The county issued a Level 3 advisory, the most serious, for the Chevron fire.
Also last week, a shelter-in-place warning and sirens went off near the Shell refinery about 7:15 a.m. Wednesday. But it turned out to be a false alarm, police said. There was no emergency or fire that day at the Shell refinery.

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