June 24, 2010 at 11:57 am #2613
Valero refinery to shutter fluid coker unit for repairs
By Tony Burchyns / Times-Herald
Posted: 06/24/2010 01:01:42 AM PDT
Updated: 06/24/2010 07:59:41 AM PDT
BENICIA — Valero’s fluid coker will be shut down for repairs for 40 days following last week’s malfunction that led to emergency sirens and nervous residents reporting plumes of smoke coming from the refinery.
“We had a couple of issues with the coker late last week and decided for safety reasons to take it down Sunday,” Valero spokesman Bill Day said Wednesday. The Texas-based oil company hasn’t determined whether crude runs will be reduced while the coker is shut down, Day added.
“It may affect crude runs,” he said. “But the rest of the refinery will remain in operation.”
Problems with the coker were revealed last Thursday morning, when the refinery released hydrocarbons into the atmosphere for about 10 minutes, according to a Bay Area Air Quality Management District report. A preliminary investigation revealed the release was the result of maintenance activity.
Air quality inspectors have remained at the refinery since June 17, and have documented multiple violations, said Kristine Roselius, an air district spokeswoman. The visible plume rose above the refinery and crossed Industrial Way through the Industrial Park up to Interstate 680 and Lake Herman Drive before it dissipated, air district officials said.
On June 17, a second plume was released near the coker unit, causing Benicia fire officials to activate the city’s emergency sirens to warn residents of possible exposure to air pollution vented directly into the atmosphere.
Problems with the coker unit have caused failures with the associated air pollution control equipment, air district officials said. Dark plumes emanated from the main stack at times during the weekend as workers shut down the coker.
“The smoke has reduced significantly and it has been blowing toward an industrial area, so it hasn’t affected residents as much,” Roselius said. No perimeter ground-level monitors have indicated elevated activity around the refinery and the air district has not received any air pollution complaints.
Members of the public can notify the air district of any pollution concerns by calling (800) 334-6367.
Contact staff writer Tony Burchyns at tburchyns@timesherald online.com or (707) 553-6831.
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