Video shows vapour cloud at Chevron California refinery before fire
21 August 2012
An internal Chevron surveillance video shows a towering vapour cloud engulfing an area of its Richmond, California, refinery for two minutes before it ignited into a volatile blaze, federal investigators said on August 15. Chemical Safety Board officials said the video shows plant workers getting caught within the cloud shortly before the August 6 blaze.
More than a dozen workers managed to escape serious injury.
"Fortunately those personnel were able to extricate themselves from that cloud," said Don Holmstrom, the lead investigator for the Chemical Safety Board.
The vapour cloud was estimated to be about 150 to 200 feet high, as tall as the refinery tower. The blaze knocked an important refinery unit offline, reducing the facility's production and sending thousands of nearby residents to hospitals with breathing and eye irritation complaints.
Holmstrom said federal and state investigators were still trying to determine how to safely enter the area where the fire started. They want to examine a failed pipe blamed for the blaze, which Chevron chose not to replace nearly a year ago after an inspection.
Small hydrocarbon leaks are still taking place and Chevron is spraying them with water to ensure they do not catch fire.
The conflagration destroyed an area of the refinery that produces a large amount of California’s gasoline, and this shortage has led to fuel price increases across the state.
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