Tuesday, March 11, 2014
Tesoro Corp. Golden Eagle Refinery
"Tesoro refinery acid accident burns 2 workers"
2014-03-11 by Jaxon Van Derbeken and Henry K. Lee from "San Francisco Chronicle"[http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/Tesoro-refinery-acid-accident-burns-2-workers-5304232.php]:
RODEO -- Two contractors doing maintenance work at Tesoro Corp.'s refinery near Martinez suffered burns Monday when they were splashed with sulfuric acid, an accident that occurred in the same processing unit where two employees were burned by acid last month, officials said.
A federal safety board said late Monday that it would investigate the cause of the latest incident. The agency also said it had not received full cooperation from the oil company in its probe of the first accident, which the federal board said was more serious than Tesoro has described.
The latest accident happened when sulfuric acid spilled on the two contractors' necks at 10:50 a.m. at the Golden Eagle Refinery at 150 Solano Way, said Maria Duazo, a Contra Costa County hazardous materials specialist. The men were taken to John Muir Medical Center in Walnut Creek with injuries that were not life-threatening, she said.
Both maintenance workers were wearing protective garments, Duazo said.
Other workers with knowledge of what happened said the two had been splashed with acid while working on a pipeline, though the circumstances were not immediately known. The men were initially protected from injury by their protective suits, but some acid remained on the garments and drained onto their necks after the men took decontamination showers, the workers said.
Tina Barbee, spokeswoman for the San Antonio company, said in an e-mail that the workers had been conducting planned maintenance. One of the men was released from the hospital Monday while the other "remains at the facility for observation," she said.
Site of previous accident -
Peter Melton, spokesman for Cal/OSHA, the state's worker safety regulatory agency, said the contractors had been working on pipes in the same unit where two Tesoro employees were burned by acid Feb. 12. The pipes carry sulfuric acid to be mixed with butylene to boost octane levels in gasoline.
The two workers in the February incident were not wearing proper protective gear when a broken pipe sprayed acid on them. They were treated for first- and second-degree facial burns at a Sacramento hospital and released the same day.
The incident was scrutinized by the U.S. Chemical Safety Board, which investigates the causes of accidents at chemical plants. Tesoro allowed federal investigators into the refinery the day after the workers were burned but barred them from future visits, saying the incident was minor and did not warrant a federal probe.
Investigators return -
The safety board wrote a letter in protest and, after federal investigators subpoenaed Tesoro for documents, the company allowed inspectors onto the refinery grounds again this month.
Safety board spokeswoman Hillary Cohen said late Monday that federal investigators had received "some cooperation" from Tesoro in their probe of the February accident. But the company "has yet to provide some of the key documents sought" and did not preserve some evidence from the incident, she added.
"One eye-opening document that the team did obtain is a Tesoro engineering calculation estimating that 84,000 pounds of sulfuric acid was released in the Feb. 12 incident," Cohen said in a statement.
She said it was "hardly the minor release that Tesoro has been describing to the public."
Tesoro's Barbee said the company disagreed with the safety board's assessment. She said the federal agency "failed to acknowledge that the release was contained in a process sewer, which is part of the system's design. The amount of (sulfuric acid) released to the environment was classified as minor according to regulatory requirements."
She added that Tesoro "placed no restrictions on the amount of time the (safety board) teams spent at the scene. We also provided documents and space to work at the refinery and facilitated interviews of employees with knowledge of the incident."
The Chemical Safety Board's investigative team left the Bay Area last week, but an inspector was expected to return to the refinery by Monday night to look into the latest accident.
Workers expressed fear -
State inspectors with Cal/OSHA ordered Tesoro's octane unit shut down Feb. 18 after finding several possible safety violations. In justifying the shutdown, investigators said workers "feared" dealing with the sulfuric acid and that a pipe had broken apart in workers' hands days after the spill.
After the company completed retraining and safety checks, the state agency allowed Tesoro to reopen the unit Feb. 28.
The state agency said it would also investigate the latest accident.
"State lets Tesoro refinery reopen accident unit"
2014-03-01 by Jaxon Van Derbeken from "San Francisco Chronicle" [http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/State-lets-Tesoro-refinery-reopen-accident-unit-5279413.php]:
State regulators allowed Tesoro Corp. on Friday to restart a unit at its refinery near Martinez that was shut down after two workers were burned with sulfuric acid.
Cal/OSHA said the company had conducted reviews of worker safety measures and training intended to prevent a repeat of the Feb. 12 incident at the Golden Eagle Refinery, in which the two employees were sprayed with sulfuric acid from a broken pipe. The two were treated for first- and second-degree burns at a Sacramento hospital and released the same day.
The state agency, which investigates workplace injuries, told Tesoro six days after the incident to shut down the unit where octane is added to gasoline. Authorities told the San Antonio company to review its operating procedures and protection measures against workers being sprayed with acid, and to arrange refresher training for all workers.
Also Friday, federal investigators said they had made progress in a standoff with Tesoro over a U.S. Chemical Safety Board probe of the Feb. 12 incident.
Tesoro allowed three federal investigators into the refinery the day after the workers were burned, but had barred them since then. The company said the incident was not serious enough to merit a safety board investigation.
Daniel Horowitz, managing director for the safety board, said late Friday that the company had agreed to let inspectors into the refinery again.
"We've made some progress - we're sending some investigators out," he said. "Unfortunately, the unit will already be online before we even have a chance to see it. They've been making modifications and repairs that change the conditions. "
"Tesoro bars federal safety agency from East Bay refinery"
2014-02-21 by Jaxon Van Derbeken from "San Francisco Chronicle" [http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/Tesoro-bars-federal-safety-agency-from-East-Bay-5254436.php]:
PACHECO -- In an unprecedented challenge, Tesoro Corp. has barred federal authorities from going inside its refinery near Martinez to investigate an incident in which two workers were burned by acid spewing from a broken pipe, The Chronicle has learned.
State officials ordered a partial shutdown of the Golden Eagle Refinery following the Feb. 12 incident after inspectors with California's workplace safety agency found numerous suspected safety violations, state officials said.
The investigators with Cal/OSHA went to the plant at 150 Solano Way in the unincorporated community of Pacheco when a pipe containing sulfuric acid burst, spraying the two workers in the face with the caustic chemical. The two were flown by helicopter to UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento, where they were treated for first- and second-degree burns and released later that day.
On Feb. 18, Cal/OSHA ordered Tesoro to shut down the section of the refinery where the pipe was located until the company reviews its operations, shows how it protects workers against acid spills and conducts refresher training. The unit adds octane boosters to refined gasoline.
Probe blocked -
Investigators with the U.S. Chemical Safety Board, the lead federal agency in major chemical-plant accidents, showed up a day after the incident and gained access to the refinery grounds. However, Tesoro has rebuffed federal investigators' subsequent requests to return to the refinery, agency officials said Thursday.
Tesoro officials said the Feb. 12 incident was minor and did not qualify under the rules for a federal investigation.
Safety board officials could not recall another refinery or chemical plant on U.S. soil that has challenged the board's authority since its inception in 1998.
"It's rather unique," said Dan Horowitz, the federal agency's managing director, "because our authority is very broad. We not only investigate incidents, but we can investigate hazards even where there has not been a release."
Feds' job -
The Tesoro incident, Horowitz said, falls squarely into the agency's jurisdiction.
"This is a hazardous unit - it released a hazardous substance, (and) those workers were seriously impacted," Horowitz said. "This is not the sort of accident that should be occurring, a loss of containment involving a hazardous substance. This is exactly the sort of incident that regulatory systems are designed to prevent. We need to find out why this happened."
He said the Chemical Safety Board has subpoenaed Tesoro to turn over documents about the unit's operations and answer questions related to the accident by March 7.
Tesoro, based in San Antonio, downplayed the incident and said it was not satisfied the federal board had the right to intervene.
Elizabeth Watters, a company spokeswoman, described the incident as a "minor chemical release" that left the two workers with "minor chemical burns."
"We were surprised when the Chemical Safety Board notified the company that the agency intended to deploy a team to investigate, as the (board) is not charged with investigating a personal safety incident that did not result in serious injuries or substantial property damage," Watters said.
Chevron precedent -
Horowitz noted that Chevron allowed safety board investigators into its Richmond refinery to investigate an August 2012 fire, even though it resulted in no major injuries to workers. The board eventually found that Chevron had ignored workers' warnings about widespread corrosion at the plant.
The Chemical Safety Board's interest in Tesoro's operations heightened in April 2010, when an explosion at the company's Anacortes, Wash., refinery killed seven workers. In a draft report issued last month, the federal board said Tesoro had a lax approach to safety, which had led to "catastrophic consequences."
Tesoro required "proof of danger" before it would make safety improvements, the agency said in the report.
Don Holmstrom, head of the board's Western regional office of investigations, said the latest probe will focus on safety culture as well.
"We think there are some serious safety issues that need further examination," he said. "We need to examine how strong their safety culture is."
Working with state -
Watters said the company takes "all incidents seriously" and was cooperating with Cal/OSHA's probe, "as it is clearly within their jurisdiction to investigate."
The Feb. 12 incident was not the first one involving acid at the Tesoro plant, officials said.
In November, a worker suffered facial burns when he was sprayed with sulfuric acid from a pipe that had been leaking and had been clamped as a makeshift repair.
The workers burned in the latest incident were wearing standard protective gear, but Tesoro had not issued them the specialized equipment required by law to protect their face and body from acid burns, Holmstrom said.
Workers at the refinery told state investigators that they were "afraid" to operate the unit where the spill occurred because acid leaks occur "all the time," according to a Cal/OSHA report. They said the pipes carrying the caustic fluid are dangerously thin.
They said the pipe that failed Feb. 12 broke again just four days later, Cal/OSHA said. Pipe-fitters were working on the unit and "the piping came apart in the exact same spot it did during the accident," the state report said.
"Golden Eagle Refinery chastised by feds after workers hurt"
20104-02-28 by Trapper Byrne from "San Francisco Chronicle" [http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/Golden-Eagle-Refinery-chastised-by-feds-after-5275024.php]:
The Contra Costa County refinery that barred federal investigators from its grounds after two workers were splashed in the face with sulfuric acid is creating the impression it has something to hide, the U.S. Chemical Safety Board said in a letter to the company.
The workers at Tesoro Corp.'s Golden Eagle Refinery just outside Martinez suffered first- and second-degree burns when they were splashed with acid from a broken pipe early Feb. 12. They were flown to a Sacramento hospital, where they were treated and released the same day.
After initially allowing Chemical Safety Board inspectors onto the refinery grounds, Tesoro refused to permit return visits or turn over documents, saying the workers' injuries weren't severe enough to warrant a federal investigation.
Company officials said they were instead cooperating with the state agency that investigates workplace accidents, Cal/OSHA. State investigators ordered Tesoro to shut down the refinery unit where the workers were injured after inspectors discovered possible safety violations.
The Chemical Safety Board subpoenaed Tesoro documents.
In their letter to Tesoro on Wednesday, Chairman Rafael Moure-Eraso and the safety board's two other members said the company's action "creates a real concern that Tesoro may be trying to withhold other facts and issues from the agency."
Although Tesoro hasn't cooperated, federal investigators have learned that the burned workers weren't wearing required face shields, and that being splashed with sulfuric acid during routine procedures is "a common occurrence" at the refinery, the safety board said.
"Furthermore, some workers have made the assertion to us and to their union representatives that they have been fearful for their jobs at times when they wished to express safety concerns," the letter said.
The board members noted that after seven Tesoro workers were killed in an explosion at the company's refinery in Anacortes, Wash., in 2010, the federal agency "found a multitude of shortcomings in Tesoro's plant safety. The CSB is interested in examining safety culture issues stemming from the Feb. 12 incident."
Asked for comment, a Tesoro spokeswoman said, "We've received the letter and are in the process of reviewing it."
The safety board investigates most chemical-industry accidents in the U.S. It produces reports on causes but does not issue fines.
"Refinery workers splashed with acid"
2014-02-12 by Henry K. Lee from "San Francisco Chronicle" [http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/Refinery-workers-splashed-with-acid-5227848.php]:
MARTINEZ -- Two workers at the Tesoro refinery in Martinez were injured early Wednesday when they were splashed with acid, firefighters said.
The victims were airlifted to UC Davis Medical Center after the incident, which happened about 2:40 a.m. at the refinery at 150 Solano Way, said Capt. Robert Marshall of the Contra Costa County Fire Protection District. Their conditions weren't immediately known, and their names have not been released.
The workers were injured while working in a gasoline production unit, said Tesoro spokeswoman Tina Barbee. The production unit has been shut down, and the cause of the release is under investigation, she said.
"All requisite regulatory agencies have been notified, including but not limited to the Contra Costa County Health Department, local law-enforcement agencies, the local Fire Department and the Bay Area Air Quality Management District," Barbee said.
About 700 employees produce gasoline and diesel fuel at the refinery.