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Chevron Pascagoula Fire Blamed on Cold Weather

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    Charles Randall
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    Chevron blames cold weather for refinery fire

    Friday, January 04, 2008      By VETO F. ROLEY
    PASCAGOULA — Chevron officials are blaming the cold weather for a Thursday fire in the company’s Pascagoula refinery. The morning fire, which was in the refinery’s RDS unit, was extinguished quickly by company firefighters, company and county officials said.

    Jackson County Emergency Management Director Butch Loper said the “small fire” caused no environmental damage. Department of Environmental Quality tests did not find any toxic releases into the atmosphere, he said.
    “Chevron reacted to the fire in a very efficient manner,” Loper said.
    The Chevron refinery maintains its own firefighting equipment and personnel.
    According to a news release issued by the company, the fire started around 8:30 a.m. and was controlled in about 15 minutes.  No one was injured in the incident, the company said, and the fire should have little effect on production.
    Company spokesman Steve Renfroe said company officials believe the fire was a result of cold temperatures Wednesday night into Thursday morning. Temperatures in Pascagoula dropped to a low of 23 degrees, according to the National Weather Service.
    Renfroe said the cold weather interfered with the chemical separations that take place under high temperatures inside the RDS unit. The RDS unit, or residuum desulfurization unit, helps remove sulfur, nitrogen and metals from crude oil.
    According to Chevron’s Web site, the RDS unit was installed at the refinery during a $1.3 billion 1980 expansion.
    Loper said he was pleased with the response his agency received from Chevron Thursday, in contrast to the interaction after an Aug. 16, 2007, fire at the facility.
    “They let us know more information quickly,” Loper said. “We were better coordinated this time, and I’m happy with that.”  That blaze, in the refinery’s No. 2 Crude Processing unit, also caused no injuries. But it took Chevron fire fighters two hours to control and burned for about eight hours. Loper said he believes conversations he and Chevron officials had following the fire improved communication on Thursday.
    Company officials said recently that they do not expect to determine the cause of the Aug. 16 fire until sometime in the early part of this year. An October statement from the company said that repairs to the damaged equipment are expected to be complete early this year as well.
    According to Renfroe, Thursday’s fire is the third fire at the refinery in the last year. He said there had been another small blaze since the August fire, but that he did not have a record of the date it occurred.
    In October, Chevron and state officials announced a $500 million expansion at the refinery that will make the facility the fifth-largest in the United States and increase gasoline production to 6 million gallons a day.
    Construction on the expansion should begin later this year, with completion expected some time in mid-2010.
    Reporter Veto F. Roley can be reached at vroley@themississippipress.com or 228-934-1427.

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