Heavy Smoke Prompts Controlled Shutdown At Valero Refinery

March 24, 2019 11:31 am · 10 comments

The Valero refinery in Benicia is performing a controlled shutdown of its entire facility in the wake of recent heavy smoke emissions that prompted health advisories, city officials said Sunday morning.

Valero told the city shortly after 9 a.m. Sunday about the refinery’s plan to perform the shutdown, said Benicia spokeswoman Irma Widjojo.

The shutdown will happen over multiple days and result in visible flaring, Valero officials told the city.

Information about what caused the heavy smoke and prompted the move to shut down the facility has not been released. City officials said refinery officials told them the shut down was taking place “to improve conditions and minimize risk from earlier operations.”

Valero officials have not responded to requests Sunday morning for comment.

The thick smoke billowing from the refinery over Solano and Contra Costa counties from the Valero refinery is also being investigated by the Bay Area Air Quality Management District.

The smoke was coming from a flue gas scrubber stack at the refinery and started sometime last week, according to the air district.

“Valero has been experiencing an upset at the facility this week,” air district spokeswoman Lisa Fasano said Sunday morning. “Smoke from the facility has increased and is blowing over the city of Benicia and may shift throughout the day.”

Over the past week, the air district has issued seven notice of violations for excess visible emissions and public nuisance to the refinery.

A monitoring van will drive throughout Benicia to gather ground level emissions data, air district spokeswoman Lisa Fasano said Sunday.

Before Valero’s announcement of a controlled shutdown of the refinery, Benicia city officials issued an advisory about 7:30 a.m., warning residents with respiratory issues to stay inside. A concentration of particulates from the refinery has become higher over the past 24 hours, according to the city.

The emissions contain coke, a byproduct of the refining process that is composed primarily of carbon particles, according to the city’s advisory.

So far, testing shows no heavy metals at harmful levels in the emissions, but the smoke may cause discomfort and can worsen respiratory conditions such as asthma, city officials said.

The air district also warned that elderly persons, children and individuals with respiratory illnesses are particularly susceptible to elevated air pollution levels and should take extra precautions to avoid exposure.

Valero officials did not reply to a request for comment about the refinery emissions.

The city is working with Valero on the issue and has partially activated the City’s Emergency Operations Center. The City has also been in active contact with the Solano County Environmental Health Department, a physician of the Solano County Public Health Department, as well as the air district, Widjojo said.

The Benicia Unified School District and Solano County’s Office of Emergency Services have also been notified as precaution.

whome March 24, 2019 at 11:58 AM

Hhhmm…

I don’t ever recall EXXON ever having this problem?
* Sarcasm, from 40 years in refining

Mary Fouts March 24, 2019 at 12:36 PM

In a health emergency situation such as this, for Valero not to respond to requests for comment is incredibly dumb pr. No wonder residents who live near area refineries despise them.

American Citizen March 26, 2019 at 1:57 PM

The ignorance of your comment shows how little you know about oil refineries. maybe you should do some research and see what actually comes from there. The next time you go to Starbucks to get your cup of coffee, I think about the cup it comes in. Or the electricity that powers your house, don’t you think that might be due to hydrocarbons? How do you think most of those generators that produce the electricity turn? Same with your electric car, where do you think the electricity comes from. Don’t be ignorant.

WC March 24, 2019 at 7:35 PM

Hang on to your gas prices.

Cautiously Informed March 24, 2019 at 9:22 PM

Nothing to worry about, fellow citizens! The BAAQMD is on the case!

Jeff March 25, 2019 at 6:40 AM

So they pay fines for violations.. Big deal! What are they going to do for all the people that arw going to eventually get cancer from all of this smoke blowing over the city all the time?1

Doh March 25, 2019 at 7:41 AM

Driving on Route 4 we could clearly see the haze. There was enough smoke that I could not point to the Sun in the sky.

Dr. Jellyfinger March 25, 2019 at 8:06 AM

Things go better with coke.

Silva March 25, 2019 at 12:52 PM

So where’s the plume going, or is there no wind? Is that what smelled like smoke while I pulled weeds yesterday?

American Citizen March 26, 2019 at 1:54 PM

This Refinery is strictly non-union. They claim to have VPP certification which is the highest level of Cal OSHA safety. I work out there, and I can tell you they do cut a lot of corners. Nothing like the other refineries in the Bay Area, which operate in a controlled and safe method.

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