Fire/Explosion Protection

CSB Calls For Changes

Final report on Chevron refinery fire offers advice to API and ASME

By Mark Rosenzweig, Editor in Chief

On Jan. 28, the U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) unanimously approved the third and final investigation report on the Aug. 6, 2012, fire at Chevron’s Port Richmond, Calif., refinery. Rupture of an 8-in.-diameter line released flammable, high-temperature light gas oil that then ignited. The incident endangered 19 employees and sent a large plume of vapor, particulates and black smoke across the surrounding area.

Several suggestions promise to have industry-wide impact.

The CSB cannot impose fines or mandate changes in work processes. However, it can make suggestions and this report contains several.

Three relate specifically to Chevron. These include: establishing a method to assign accountability for reviewing new industry guidelines and best practices and deciding which ones must be followed to ensure process or personal safety; and developing an auditable process for turnaround work to address mechanical integrity deficiencies or inspection recommendations that are denied or deferred.

The board also recommends that two local jurisdictions, the city of Richmond and Contra Costa County, revise their industrial safety ordinance regulations.

In addition, the report makes several suggestions that promise to have industry-wide impact because they call for revisions to five American Petroleum Institute (API) recommended practices:
• “API RP 939-C: Guidelines for Avoiding Sulfidation (Sulfidic) Corrosion Failures in Oil Refineries” — to establish minimum requirements for preventing catastrophic rupture of low-silicon carbon steel piping;
•“API RP 571: Damage Mechanisms Affecting Fixed Equipment in the Refining Industry” — to warn of the possibility of faster rates of sulfidation corrosion;
• “API RP 578: Material Verification Program for New and Existing Alloy Piping Systems” — to require implementation of a program to identify carbon steel piping circuits susceptible to sulfidation corrosion and that may contain low-silicon components;
• “API RP 574: Inspection Practices for Piping System Components (3rd edition)” — to incorporate references to API RP 939-C in several places and to mandate use of leak-response-protocol requirements in API RP 2001; and
• “API RP 2001: Fire Protection in Refineries” — to require development of a process-fluid-leak response protocol for the particular facility that must be followed when a process fluid leak is discovered.

In addition, the report recommends revisions to one API code:
• “API 570: Piping Inspection Code: In-service Inspection, Rating, Repair, and Alteration of Piping Systems.”

It also calls for changes to the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) standard “PCC-2-2011: Repair of Pressure Equipment and Piping” to require users to follow the minimum-process-fluid-leak response requirements established in API RP 2001.

The report, downloadable at, provides specific details on the suggested revisions.

While the CSB has no power to force industry groups and professional organizations to adopt its recommendations, I’d be surprised if API and ASME didn’t implement them. The revision process will take time, though.

Unfortunately, the CSB lately has faced internal issues that undermine its mission (see: “Turmoil Takes a Toll on Chemical Safety Board").

rosenzweigweb.jpgMARK ROSENZWEIG is Chemical Processing's Editor in Chief. You can email him at